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Cofiri launches VC funds with E215m target

The Italian bank plans to invest in start-ups operating in the energy, paper, chemical, biotechnology and materials sectors.

Italian merchant bank Cofiri has launched two VC funds with target close totals of E215m. The largest fund will amount to E200m and will target energy, paper and chemical start-up ventures.

Cofiri will contribute around E67m to the main fund and seek the rest from outside investors. Gilberto Gabrielli, chairman of Cofiri, said a number of investments, totalling E45m, were already in the pipeline and that the rest of the fund would be committed by 2003.

Establishing a fund focusing on the chemical industry is in line with the group’s plans to play an active role in the sector. Gabrielli said, “there is much to do in order to relaunch a sector in which Italy was once a leading player.”

Gabrielli is one of a group of Italian entrepreneurs, who earlier this year acquired Cofiri from state-controlled holding company IRI. Vittorio Merloni and Tonino Angelucci are also on board.

The second fund, as yet unnamed, will be for E15m and will invest in biotechnology and new materials start-ups, typically research laboratory spin-offs of large corporate businesses. Around 10 start-ups are currently being profiled for investment. Cofiri will take minority stakes in all the companies it deems suitable for investment.

Both funds will seek to exit their investments in three to five years, and up to 10 years for smaller biotechnology companies that typically take longer to bring their products to market, said Gabrielli.

Cofiri closed the first six months of 2001 with pre-tax profits of L40.2bn, up 62.8 per cent on the same period a year earlier.