Responsible Funds, Jan. 23: Washington State and Maine pension funds ‘back new social slanted agri fund’

The round-up of responsible funds news

The $103.6bn (€92.67bn) Washington State Investment Board and the $13.2bn (€11.8bn) Maine Public Employees Retirement System have reportedly each committed $50m (€44.6m) to the $250m (€223.5m) ACM Permanent Crop Fund, an impact investment fund in US agriculture using all-organic and sustainable techniques. Institutional Investor reports that the fund, which is run by Equilibrium Capital, had investors including foundations, endowments and public pension funds.

The $9bn MasterCard Foundation has launched a $50m fund aimed at improving the lives of smallholder farmers in Africa by enabling businesses to begin or expand financial services in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. Foundation CEO Reeta Roy said the MasterCard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity would “stimulate private sector organizations to provide affordable and accessible savings, credit and insurance products”. The fund will be managed by KPMG International Advisory Services and initial applications for proposals will be accepted until March 20. The foundation was set up in 2006 when credit card firm MasterCard Worldwide became a public company. Link

The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) are launching a new advisory service on financial instruments for the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) called “fi-compass”. “This service is part of the ‘one stop shop’ advisory hub, to be launched as an important part of the EU Investment Plan,” they said. The plan envisages the separate European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) will mobilise at least €315bn in investment.

The Triodos SRI funds (Triodos SICAV I) reached the €1bn milestone late last year. The funds invest in listed companies that meet strict sustainable criteria; they operate under the umbrella of Triodos SICAV I which consists of four sub funds: Triodos Sustainable Equity Fund, Triodos Sustainable Bond Fund, Triodos Sustainable Mixed Fund and Triodos Sustainable Pioneer Fund. Dutch-based Triodos said its SRI funds are growing rapidly: at the end of 2012 the total volume was €502m – meaning that in just two years the AUM has doubled. Link*A sharia-compliant aircraft-leasing fund backed by aircraft giant Airbus* has reportedly signed its first deal. Reuters said the fund, which only finances Airbus aircraft for clients in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, was launched in June with seed capital from the company and the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank. It has inked a deal for five A330-200s with an option for four more. The fund has a target size of $5bn and Dubai-based Palma Capital and Quantum Investment Bank are placement agents, the report added.

The Charities Aid Foundation’s social investment arm, CAF Venturesome, has invested £375,000 (€500,469) into two social impact bonds to help young people in the UK out of homelessness. It has supported five social impact bonds to date.

A new activist hedge fund that aims to work collaboratively with company boards has reportedly been launched by two former JP Morgan executives. Reuters said Hudson Executive Capital LP is headed by Douglas Braunstein and James Woolery, respectively the investment bank’s former CFO and ex-head of North American mergers and acquisitions. The report cited a company statement as saying it has recruited 14 current and former chief executives as co-founders and co-investors in the fund, raising $250m.

Forbes reports that Google has made two substantial investments in solar wind investment. To date it has made around $1.5bn (€1.3bn) in renewable energy investments. The most recent transaction (its 19th) will see Google put $76m (€67.7m) into the Balko Wind project in Oklahoma, alongside other companies including General Electric Capital, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Citi. The internet giant is also backing a 104-megawatt Red Hills solar power plant in Utah. Link

In 2014, the Fossil Free Indexes US (FFIUS), the index launched last year that’s based on the capitalization-weighted S&P 500 index negatively screened for the ‘Carbon Underground 200’, outperformed the S&P 500 by about 1.5%. “This is a strikingly large number, when you consider that less than 10% of the market capitalization of the S&P 500 is in companies that are part of The Carbon Underground 200 (CU200) and, therefore, excluded from the FFIUS,” the company behind it, Fossil Free Indexes, said.