Responsible Funds, December 9: Australia’s UniSuper ups stake in New Zealand timberland firm to 25%

The latest responsible funds developments

Australia’s UniSuper has raised its stake in New Zealand timberland company Hancock’s Taumata Plantations to 25% after investing another A$150m. The Australian Financial Review reports that UniSuper acquired the stake from European and US pension funds. Other shareholders include TIAACREF and the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company that owns more than 40% of the company and 100% of the management rights. UniSuper’s investment reflects its desire to invest directly in infrastructure.

The Australia New Zealand Forest Fund 3 (ANZFF3), launched by Sydney-based sustainable real assets manager New Forests, has raised AUD 660 million in committed capital during the last 10 months. ANZFF3’s mandate determines investing in a “diversified portfolio of hardwood and softwood plantation assets” down under, as well as in “infrastructure facilities, such as sawmills, ports, and bioenergy facilities”. Mark Rogers, New Forests’ Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand, will oversee ANZFF3. New Forests has reported more than AUD 3.6 billion in funds, assets under management, and committed capital. Link

Impax has reached first close on its third renewables fund. The London-based asset manager has raised €149m for the private equity vehicle, Impax New Energy Investors III, which specialises in renewable energy infrastructure from independent power companies and projects in Europe. Impax has committed €4m of the capital itself. It expects to reach final close on the fund within 15 months, it said in a statement.

Impact investment firm Bridges Ventures has launched a £23m ‘Evergreen’ vehicle backed by Greater Manchester and Merseyside Pension Funds, eaga Trust and Big Society Capital. The firm will find opportunities to invest in “profit-with-purpose” bodies such as public-sector spin-offs, social sector organisations and employee-owned businesses. Evergreen will be structured as a holding company rather than a traditional fund, in a bid to “free ambitious mission-led businesses from the constraints of traditional fund structures” by making it easier to provide ongoing support (financial, strategic and operational) and avoid exit obligations. Other investors include unnamed local authority pension funds in the UK, retail investors, trusts and foundations. Returns will be based on dividends and loan interest. The vehicle will focus on equity investments in health and wellbeing, education and skills, sustainable living and underserved markets.

Green energy firm Ecotricity is to issue its fourth bond after receiving applications for over £12m of its ‘eco-bonds’. Business Green reports that it has already raised around £38m through three previous bond issues. Ecotricity said so-called ‘ecobond four’ would offer investors a return of 5.0 per cent gross per annum for its customers, or 4.5 per cent gross per annum for all other investors.

Melbourne-based Impact Investment Group’s (IIG) A$100m Giant Leap Fund has made its first two investments. It has invested A$5m in Sendle, a carbon offset parcel delivery services and backed food-delivery service YourGrocer, which focuses on local small businesses. Victorian Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade Philip Dalidakis said, “Congratulations to IIG for their tremendous efforts to raise the Giant Leap Fund – not only will this money help our startup ecosystem but it will help those that are dedicated to making our world better for everyone.”

Morningstar’s research on fund managers by gender has found “discouraging trends”, as only one in five funds has a female portfolio manager, across the 56 countries examined and the eight-year time frame of the study. Countries with large financial centers have lower proportions of women fund managers than many smaller markets. For instance Brazil, India, Germany and the US are behind the global average of 12.9% of women fund managers; whereas in France, Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore, and Spain at least 20% are women.An asset manager is being sought by the Sustainable Energy Fund of Brazil’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) which has been recently launched with a proposed capital of R$500 million (€135m). Eliane Aleixo Lustosa, BNDES Managing Director, told RI that the manager should ideally start the job in late January as the fund must come into operation no later than July 2017. The manager will be in charge of selecting the projects to be financed. The selection process officially opened on December 2. “It could be an international or a Brazilian manager, but it has to have an office in Brazil. The idea is to choose the one with the best strategy and skills, because the fund could go up to 15 years,” she added. Three managers will be shortlisted, who – even if not selected this time – will be considered for future rounds of the current fund. She added that the idea is to have ready viable mechanisms in place to fund projects ahead of 2018, when Brazil’s economy is expected to be fully recovered from the current recession.

A sharia investment fund to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Gabon and the Central African region will be launched as a result of an agreement reached between the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and the Deposit and Consignments Fund (DCF) of Gabon. The fund is a response to the “missing link in the local financial sector ruled by commercial banks” which are reluctant to give loans to SMEs for risk and low capitalisation reasons, according to Alain Ditona Moussavouadded, CEO of the DCF. The ICD, part of the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank, has an authorised capital of $4 billion; while the DCF has reported a balance sheet of $315 million.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted Navarra de Suelo y Vivienda (NASUVINSA) a loan to finance the construction of energy-efficient social housing units in the Spanish Northern region of Navarra. NASUVINSA, a regional government-controlled company, plans to undertake the construction of affordable nearly zero-energy buildings, which reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions. According to the EIB, the total cost of the project is €80 million, of which it is considering contributing €40 million.

The UK’s Big Society Capital has launched a £10m fund which will match fund investment raised for charities and social enterprises by three of the country’s crowdfunding platforms. Crowdfunder, Ethex and ThinCats have partnered with the government-backed social investment institution on the initiative, which seeks to double the retail investment made in bodies that are eligible for Social Investment Tax Relief – a UK scheme introduced two years ago which offers private investors a 30% tax break on eligible investments. Phil Geraghty, managing director of Crowdfunding said the move was “a game changer” for the sector, saying that public-sector match funding often “supercharged” campaigns.

Mirova’s renewable energy funds have been named the best green infrastructure strategy by the French Infrastructure, Urban development and Real estate summit. This is the second time Mirova has won the award, which covers public- and private-sector operators in the real estate, infra and land development sectors in France.