AXA completes four deals in a week

The private equity arm of the French insurance group has completed two technology venture deals and realised two LBO investments from its portfolio.

Paris-headquartered AXA Private Equity’s LBO funds have completed two exits in two days.

First up, the group made three times its original €11.5 million ($14.1 million)investment in industrial explosives manufacturer Titanite when it sold its stake to Fonds Partenaire Gestion, a private equity division of Lazard Group, in a secondary transaction valued at €64.5 million.

AXA then sold insurance services group Icare to the Europ Assistance Group in a transaction valued at around €70 million, returning four times AXA's initial €9 million investment in 2000, which was made from AXA Private Equity Fund I.

Icare provides mechanical breakdown warranties for new and second-hand vehicles across Europe. Employing 120 people, the group recorded consolidated sales of €55 million  and an operating profit in excess of €5 million in 2003. AXA acquired the group in July 2000 in what was, at the time, France’s first LBO in the insurance sector.

Management retained a 20 percent stake in the company, which posted sales of €52 million in 2003.

On the investment side, AXA’s venture capital funds have also been active. AXA Placement Innovation III and AXA Venture Fund IV have jointly invested €1.7 million in wireless company Coronis Systems. They were joined in the financing round by existing shareholder, Banexi Venture Partners, who put up €0.8 million.

Furthermore, French mobile software company Streamezzo received €5 million in a first financing round led by AXA's €2.1 million investment, with participation from French venture capital firm T-Source, France Telecom Technologies Investissements, a division of France Telecom and public research institution GET Valorisations.

AXA has been developing its venture capital division since 1998 and has invested in more than 40 companies in the IT and life sciences sector.

On the LBO side, AXA is currently investing AXA Private Equity Fund II, a €400 million launched in 2001, which is more than 65 percent invested.

The whole group, encompassing LBO, venture capital, growth expansion, primary and secondary fund of funds, manages and advises private equity funds in excess of €5 billion on a global basis.

The firm is reported to be in the process of launching a new fundraising campaign to raise $800 million to invest in limited partner interests in mature venture and buyout funds that are more than 50 percent drawn down. AXA recently closed a €250 million early stage secondary fund of funds.

The new late stage secondary fund would be AXA’s third, following on from its 2001 $480 million fund and an inaugural $220 million fund organized in 1998. AXA declined to comment on the size of the proposed new fund.