AXA Private Equity sells part of French infra investment

The sale of a 3 percent stake in French water and waste management services provider Saur Group provides a partial exit to the private equity firm and brings in a new owner, Luxembourg-based CUBE Infrastructure fund.

AXA Private Equity and Caisse des Dépôts, the French state-owned bank, have sold 3 percent and 9 percent, respectively, of their equity stakes in a French infrastructure investment to Luxembourg-based CUBE Infrastructure fund.

AXA and Caisse des Dépôts will own 17 percent and 38 percent, respectively, of HIME, a holding company for the Saur Group, which designs and constructs water and waste management services for municipal authorities in France. Cube will own 12 percent and a third investor, Seche Environnement, will continue to own 33 percent of the holding company. Seche has a purchase option on 18 percent of HIME from Caisse des Dépôts.

AXA and Caisse des Dépôts invested in Hime in April 2007. At the time, AXA bought a 20 percent stake and agreed to sell 3 percent in the near future, although it is unclear whether CUBE was initially arranged as the buyer.

“We followed with high interest the evolution of the Hime/Saur Group. We deeply believe that, under the management of the industrial partner, Séché Environnement, this Group will enjoy steady growth both in the French and international markets, both in water and waste management,” said Jérôme Jeauffroy, executive vice president of CUBE Infrastructure fund.

Though no financial details were disclosed, a person familiar with the matter said the sale was done with a capital gain that matched both the multiple and the internal rate of return targets of the sellers, who will hold their investments for at least five years.

Created in 1996, AXA Private Equity is the captive private equity arm of French insurer AXA Group. The firm manages and advises a total of $25 billion of assets. It has offices in seven countries and more than 100 investment professionals.

The firm started its infrastructure group in 2005. The infrastructure group has $2 billion of assets under management and has invested $900 million to date in toll roads, utilities and renewable energy across France, the UK and Italy.

The Saur Group serves 5.5 million French customers in more than 6,700 municipalities and has 12,400 employees. It posted revenues of €1.45 billion in the most recent financial year.