Responsible Funds, Nov. 15: Swiss fund researcher ifund to integrate ESG into recommendations

The latest responsible funds news

Swiss investment fund analysis group ifund Services AG will include sustainability criteria in all future fund recommendations via a new partnership with sustainable advisory firm Contrast Capital. Zurich-based ifund will look at how sustainability has been embraced by the fund provider, how sustainability is embedded in their investment process, their approach to active ownership and the degree of transparency in their communication. Ifund Services was founded in 2000 and works exclusively for institutional clients such as banks, independent asset managers, family offices and pension funds. Contrast was co-founded by former SAM Chief Investment Officer Stephanie Feigt and colleagues Rodrigo Amandi and Pierin Menzli.

The Marguerite Fund, the €710m European Fund for Energy, Climate Change and Infrastructure that is backed by a group of major long-term investors, and its partner RP Global have completed the construction of their 54MW Kukinia wind farm in Poland. Marguerite was found in 2009 and its core sponsors are six European state investors. Marguerite was an anchor investor in the Butendiek German offshore wind farm, helping to raise private capital from Danish pension funds PKA and Industriens Pension

Wespath Investment Management says its U.S. Equity Fund gained 3.49% in October, but underperformed the fund’s Russell 3000 Index benchmark by a “meaningful” 0.76% due to greater-than-benchmark allocation to the stocks of small and mid-sized companies. But for the year to date, the fund has gained 27.54% and is outperforming its benchmark return by 1.09%, Wespath said. Wespath is the investment management division of the $19bn (€14.1bn) General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church.

Greencoat UK Wind, the infrastructure fund invested solely in operational UK wind farms, has announced a proposed equity capital raise of up to £135m (€161.3m) to refinance its existing bank facility. Greencoat listed in March 2013 and has total generating capacity of 184.0MW. Separately, Greencoat has bought a 49% stake in the Middlemoor (54MW) and Lindhurst Wind Farms (9MW) in the UK from RWE Innogy for a total £70.6m.The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a $25m equity investment in the new Africa Renewable Energy Fund (AREF) run by investment manager Berkeley Energy LLP and said it acknowledged the mobilization of a further $39.5m from other partners. AREF is a private equity fund that will invest in small- to medium-sized renewable energy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), excluding South Africa, with a targeted fund size of $150-200m. Announcement

Swiss asset manager ResponsAbility says its flagship Global Microfinance Fund invested $55m (€40.9m) in 24 microfinance and fair trade firms during October, bringing the total number of companies in its portfolio to 249. The current number of firms is down from 278 reported at the end of August. The fund’s biggest exposure continues to be Peru at 8% of assets, followed by Cambodia (6.1%) and Azerbaijan (5.5%). The fund has $875.9m in assets and a year-to-date return (in USD) of 2.6%. The fund’s return since inception ten years ago is 44.2%.

Développement international Desjardins (DID), part of the Quebec-based co-operative financial group Desjardins, has been selected by the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development to set up a fund enabling microfinance institutions in rural Cameroon to offer loans to small shareholders to buy agricultural equipment. DID says it will draw on the experience of a similar project in Burkina Faso in 2010-2013.

The Plurimi Sustainable Income Fund, launched by UK asset manager Plurimi Capital in January 2013 and believed to be the first European high-yield corporate bond fund to factor in sustainability criteria, has now passed the €50m assets mark, according to ESG research provider Oekom.

Foresight Solar Fund Ltd., the solar investor which listed in London at the end of October, has completed the acquisition of the 32.2MW Wymeswold solar power plant, the UK’s largest operating solar power plant, for £43.7m. The plant is located on a disused wartime airfield in Leicestershire in central England.