Responsible Funds, August 29: Australian Ethical, Aviva, Nordea, RobecoSAM

The round-up of responsible funds news

Australian ethical funds specialist, Sydney-based Australian Ethical, has revealed that its funds under management as at the end of June have risen 25% to a new high of A$887m (€628m), driven by net inflows of A$92m. Net profit after tax at the ASX-listed firm rose 139% to A$2.5m on revenues of A$19.9m (up 21%).

A new study shows that at the end of 2013, microfinance funds had collected a total of $7.1bn (€5.4bn) in assets – an increase of 68% from three years before. The study, by Swiss microfinance firm Symbiotics, said a third of the assets were managed by Swiss houses. Another 25% of the volume was managed by Dutch houses and 14% by German ones. The study also said eastern Europe and central Asia accounted for most (40%) of current microfinance investment.

Notenstein, the Swiss private bank which is making a big push into sustainable investments, has in effect acquired the Swiss wealth management arm of Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW) for an undisclosed sum. As a result of the transaction, to be completed in the fourth quarter, Notenstein is gaining around CHF1bn (€830m) in client assets as well as some of the 10 staff who work for the LBBW unit in Zurich. St. Gallen-based Notenstein currently has CHF21bn in assets under management for private and institutional clients.

Aviva Investors’ REaLM Infrastructure Fund has bought its second UK residential solar photovoltaic portfolio from Zouk Capital’s Zouk Solar Opportunities Ltd vehicle. Following an earlier deal in 2013, the latest 11MW acquisition takes the total of the two transactions to around 20MW and £76m (€95.5m). “We are delighted to have invested in such high quality infrastructure assets offering attractive yields,” said Ian Berry, Fund Manager, Infrastructure & Renewable Energy at Aviva Investors.

Net retail sales of ethical funds in the UK were £49m in July 2014, according to industry body the Investment Management Association (IMA). 
Funds under management for ethical funds were £9.4bn at the end of July 2014 – meaning their share of industry funds under management was 1.2%, the IMA said.A new Nordic equities fund with a strong ESG slant has been launched by fund firm Nordea, according to reports. Citywire said the Nordea 1 – Nordic Equity Stars offering will be managed by Mathias Leijon. It will be guided by “the strong belief” that companies of Nordic countries that comply with international standards for environmental, social and corporate governance have a strong potential to grow and generate excess returns.

The €458.6m RobecoSAM Sustainable European Equities fund has returned 4.44% in the year to the end of July, according to a fund update (benchmark return: 4.52%). The fund, whish aims at companies with a focus on quality, innovation and sustainability that use competitive advantage to create shareholder value, has been managed by Kai Fachinger since 2011.

Swedish state fund Andra AP-fonden (AP2) has reportedly invested $750m in TIAACREF Global Agriculture II, the new farmland investment vehicle from the US financial giant. PEI said TIAACREF Global Agriculture II is a limited liability company focusing on farmland in Brazil, Australia and the US. It added AP2 invested $1bn into the TIAACREF’s first offering (TIAACREF Global Agriculture LLC) in 2011.

The number and the volume of sustainable funds registered in Germany, Switzerland and Austria rose in the first half of 2014, according to the Sustainable Business Institute (SBI), a German organisation that promotes such investments. At the end of June 2014, there were 395 sustainable funds registered in the countries which together had €43bn in assets. This compares with 383 funds with a combined volume of €40bn. Most of the assets (€24.2bn) were invested in sustainable stock funds, whose returns, according to the SBI, ranged from +28% to -2%. Another €9bn was invested in sustainable bond funds (returns: +11% to 0%) and €7.2bn in balanced products (returns: +7% to -6%). The remainder of the assets, or €2.6bn, was in sustainable fund-of-funds, exchange-traded products and microfinance funds. Link (German)