Italian fund posts €87m first closing

Natexis Cape has announced the first closing of its Cape Natexis Private Equity Fund at €87m – surpassing an original first closing target of €60m.

Having commenced its fundraising in October 2003, Natexis Cape has achieved a first closing of €87 million for its Cape Natexis Private Equity Fund.

The fund’s cornerstone investor was Natexis Private Equity, while other commitments came from a range of investors including Fondamenta (managed by State Street Global Advisors), CNP Assurances, Henderson Private Capital and a “significant” number of Italian high net worth individuals and family offices.

The fund, which is targeting a final closing of €110 million by the end of April 2004, will focus on small and mid-cap buyouts in the North and Northeast of Italy, particularly in the industrial triangle of Milan-Padua-Bologna. The region is Italy’s most affluent and contains its highest concentration of companies.

London-based placement agent Acanthus Advisers advised on the fundraising. Explaining its appeal to investors, Acanthus partner Armando D’Amico said: “There are lots of local banks in the region providing debt and minority equity to small and mid cap businesses, but Natexis Cape is the only organisation wanting to do buyouts where it will take a majority stake and initially retain the existing owner founder.”

The fundraising emphasises a current trend towards institutional investment in European mid-market country-specific funds. Added D’Amico: “The strong interest shown towards the fund and similar medium sized offerings is further confirmation that sophisticated investors are seeking to diversify their exposure and enhance their returns by committing to focused, ambitious teams with original angles on deal sourcing with as proven track record.”

The fund is the fourth to be advised by the Cape (Cimino & Associati Private Equity) team since it was formed in 1999 by founder Simone Cimino, a former partner and managing director of LBO Italia. The team has subsequently made 14 investments and delivered a realised IRR of 73 percent.

The eight-strong Cape investment team has been backed since October 2001 by Paris-based private equity firm Natexis Private Equity through a co-investment agreement. Natexis Private Equity has agreed to invest up to €40 million in the latest fund.