Responsible Funds, February 21: Oikocredit takes in €300m in Germany

The round-up of responsible funds news

Oikocredit, the microfinance specialist, says it has taken just over €300m in assets from investors in Germany, nearly all of whom are private clients. Like microfinance funds, the cooperative Oikocredit uses the assets to invest in the debt or equity issued by microfinance institutions (MFIs) in developing countries. The MFIs, in turn, provide short-term loans to local small- to midsize enterprises (SMEs) or farmers. Oikocredit’s German unit said 80% of its business was with MFIs and 20% was direct investment in SMEs and agriculture. It put the average dividend to investors at 2%. Link (German)

‘Activist’ fund launches reached a five-year high last year, according to a Financial Times report citing research consultancy Activist Insight. The FT said eight activist fund companies were set up last year, including five in the US. It quoted David Rosewater, a partner at US law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel as saying that shareholder engagement had been shown to work “and the returns have been excellent, which of course gets more investment.”

New Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe has reportedly announced the formation of a public-private fund for the prefecture to use for investment in renewable energy that could grow to ¥4bn (€28m). Masuzoe said he aimed to expand renewable energy generation. Link

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is currently appraising a framework loan to finance integrated sustainable urban renewal and development projects, with a focus on resource efficiency and social housing. It will be used to co-finance the London Green Fund – a holding fund financial instrument managed by EIB, and using European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) available to the Greater London region. The proposed EIB finance is around €600m of the total €1.2bn cost.

FSE Group, the UK-based not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) has launched the Social Impact Accelerator Loan Scheme to be “new source of funding for ambitious social enterprises”. The project supported by initial investment from Big Society Capital, the UK’s social investment bank.ING Investment Management is bringing a sustainable equity fund to the German market this quarter. The fund, known as “ING (L) – Invest Sustainable Equity P,” combines exclusion with a best-in-class strategy. The sectors the fund excludes outright are weaponry, nuclear power, tobacco and gambling. For its stockpicking, the fund’s management relies on sustainable equity research provided by Sustainalytics. The fund has near half of its €177m current assets in US stocks, including sizeable holdings in Apple, JP Morgan, Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.

Old Mutual Investment Group is fundraising for two African sector funds, a $150m African Housing Fund and a $250m African Agriculture Fund. It said the agriculture fund would look at investments in Morocco, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ethiopia, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. The housing fund will invest in Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Foresight Solar Fund, the UK-listed, Jersey-registered closed-end investment company, has agreed to buy its seventh large-scale solar plant, the 10.7MW Hunters Race plant on a former quarry in West Sussex south of London. It brings its total committed assets to 134.3MW.

SUSI Sustainable Euro Fund I, the offering from Swiss-based SUSI Partners, has bought into the Italian solar photovoltaic (PV) market. It has invested in the 6MW MOCA portfolio developed by the Spanish group ESA, which comprises two plants, in the Lazio and Umbria regions. “We still see the Italian PV market as appealing given the secondary market opportunities with attractive risk-adjusted returns and experienced operations and maintenance providers,” SUSI said.

‘The Big Energy Idea’ is a new initiative of Ignite Social Enterprise, the UK’s first energy-focused social investment fund that is backed by energy firm Centrica. It will back 10 social entrepreneurs for eight months from May 12 with a minimum of £50,000. Applications are open until February 28. Link