AXA takes control of private debt fund Capza

Posted Feb 17 2022 at 16:39

AXA pushes fires into the non-side. The insurer takes control of the historic French private debt investor Capza and climbs, according to our information, to two-thirds of the capital. Since 2019, the group led by Thomas Buberl has held 46% of it thanks to the purchase of 22% from Eurazeo. In three years, the platform has more than doubled in size, to 6.1 billion euros in assets.

Axa Investment Managers (IM), the asset management branch of the insurance giant, has made it clear for several months that it intends to strengthen its position in private equity, one of the few asset classes, if not the only , capable of delivering double-digit performance in a low-rate environment.

Eventually, the group decided to capitalize on its fifteen-year ties with Christophe Karvelis-Senn, who founded Capza in 2004, instead of recruiting or buying new expertise in the much-coveted segment of private assets.

“Capza is becoming the platform from which we will develop in the direct unlisted,” explains Marco Morelli, executive chairman of Axa IM, Axa’s asset management subsidiary. We also have, with our Axa IM Alts division, nearly 170 billion euros in real assets, such as real estate, infrastructure, structured credit and private debt. There are few duplicates between the two entities. »

All asset classes combined, Axa IM managed 880 billion euros in assets at the end of September 2021, with a clear dominance of bond investments, linked to the group’s life insurance activities. This makes it the third French asset manager behind Amundi and Natixis IM and ahead of BNP Paribas Asset Management.

The AXA group remains a minority shareholder in the private equity giant Ardian, which it controlled until 2013 and which is considering going public.

Management autonomy

Christophe Karvelis-Senn agrees to cede control with his teams, he explains, in order to meet the challenge of the race for size in private equity, where medium-sized players are struggling to stand out. This sponsor of the sector will be able to expand its platform with a new envelope of 3.6 billion euros granted by AXA over the next five years. In addition, Capza will take all of the capital of the debt investor Artemid, from Amiral Gestion, of which it held only 45% until now.

Finally, under the impetus of AXA, Capza aims to strengthen itself in the heart of the unlisted, not only debt, but capital investments in medium-sized companies. Objective: to double in size within five, to 10 billion euros.

A new course, therefore, after the various governance movements that have taken place in recent months, with the departures of General Manager Laurent Bénard, last October, and of Dominique Gaillard, former pillar of Ardian, in November, six months after his arrival, as well as the establishment of a new management.

If there is a transfer of control, Capza ensures that it will retain its complete decision-making autonomy. “Our past and future management autonomy is the guarantor of our model which has made our success until today”, emphasizes Christophe Karvelis-Senn.

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