Italian firms target €70m for solar fund

Milan-based mid-market firm Cape Natixis and Helio Partners, a Roman photovoltaic park investor and developer, plan to capitalise on Italy’s sunshine and lack of solar power plants. Their joint fund hopes to build the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant in Southern Italy.

Italian firms Cape Natixis and Helio Partners hope to raise €70 million ($99 million) for solar power investment in Italy and Mediterranean Europe.

“This fund will allow us to take advantage of the increasing number of investment opportunities with private equity type returns, but less risk,” Simone Cimino, founder and chairman of Cape Natixis, said in a statement.

Dubbed Cape Helio, the fund is being raised by London-based placement agent Acanthus Advisors.

There is a window of opportunity to build solar power plants in Italy.

Massimo Sapienza

“There is a window of opportunity to build solar power plants in Italy. Italy is one of Europe’s sunniest countries and first movers will receive one of the highest incentives,” Massimo Sapienza, founder of photovoltaic development firm Helio Partners, said in a statement. “We currently have over 170-megawatts authorised and scheduled for construction by 2010.”

The fund is currently seeking approval to build a 50-megawatt power plant in southern Italy, which the firms said would be the largest photovoltaic power plant in the world.

Cape Helio marks the eighth fundraise for Milan-based mid-market firm Cape Natixis, which was founded in 1999 as Cimino & Associati Private Equity. The first fund it raised as an affiliate of French private equity group Natixis Private Equity, backed by Banque Populare Group, closed in 2004 on €120 million.

Its most recent private equity fund closed on €195 million in June 2007, and targets traditional manufacturing companies, particularly those going through generational changes, in Northeastern Italy. It may also invest up to 10 percent of the fund’s capital in China-headquartered companies.

Cape Natixis has completed 54 deals in Italy and manages €435 million in capital.