Unigestion acquires rival Akina

The Geneva-headquartered fund of funds will see its private equity portfolio grow by $3bn after the acquisition of the European mid-market firm.

Unigestion, the $23 billion Swiss asset manager, has acquired European mid-market firm Akina following an almost year-long takeover process.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Bernard Sabrier, chairman of Unigestion, told Private Equity International: “We saw that acquiring Akina made huge strategic sense – we would increase Unigestion’s total portfolio and together we would become the market leader in European small- and mid-cap private equity.”

Akina specialises in mid- and lower-market investments in Europe and has assets under management of €2.3 billion. The Zurich-based firm recently held a final close on its latest fund of funds, raising €410 million against a €300 million target for Euro Choice VI. That fund closed 13 deals including three secondaries transactions in Italy, Spain and Central and Eastern Europe. 

The firm also has a dedicated secondaries business. As of December last year, it had collected more than two-thirds of the €225 million target for its secondaries fund, Euro Choice Secondary II, as reported by PEI sister title Secondaries Investor.

With the merger Unigestion’s private equity business will almost double in size, from $3.5 billion to $6 billion, or above 25 percent of the firm’s total assets under management making the asset class the second largest pillar of its investment offerings which also include equities and multi-asset strategies.

Unigestion’s private equity headcount will grow to 54 professionals across Geneva, Zurich, London, New York and Singapore. The firm is currently in market with its debut direct investment fund, Unigestion Direct Opportunities 2015, which held a first close on over half of its €200 million target in April last year. The firm is also raising capital for its latest secondaries offering, Unigestion Secondary Opportunity Fund IV. It held a first close in August on €177 million against a target of €300 million.

“Investors are looking for scale. When we bid for large mandates from pension funds, endowments or sovereign wealth funds, they wanted us to have more AUM in that specific strategy,” Sabrier said. “Now with $6 billion in private equity, an integrated team of more than 50 professionals, and over 300 clients, we will become much more relevant.”

Sabrier noted that the whole team at Akina will join Unigestion and will be “totally integrated under the new entity”.

“All key individuals at Akina have signed long-term contracts with Unigestion, and because of their type of business and current clients, we have very little overlay in competence, talents, and clients.” 

Christophe de Dardel, Unigestion’s head of private equity and member of the executive committee, will continue in his current role and run the merged business. Meanwhile, Christopher S. Bödtker, managing partner and chairman of Akina’s investment committee will join Unigestion’s investment committee, and Unigestion chairman Bernard Sabrier will sit on Akina’s investment committee. 

In addition, Akina senior partners Thomas Frei and Mark Zünd, will continue to hold key positions in the enlarged firm. Paul Newsome, executive director and head of investments for private equity at Unigestion will also work closely with Frei and Zünd.

There will be no change to the investment strategy and names of existing products of either Unigestion or Akina.

“We wanted to make sure on both sides that all clients are happy and they are reassured the original teams will still manage the assets post-acquisition,” Sabrier said.

In September last year, the firm hired Edouard Merette, a former Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec managing director, as chairman of its Asia business. 

Commenting on Unigestion’s Asia strategy, Sabrier highlighted that the firm will take time to be recognised in the region. “We are not a brand in Asia so obviously people know us less well as in France, Switzerland or the UK.”

With the merger, however, Unigestion is better equipped to study investment opportunities in the region especially in the small- and mid-market space, he added.