CVC wades back into infra with Macquarie hire

Jiri Zrust will head the private equity firm’s ‘infrastructure-plus investment platform’, which will be part of its strategic opportunities strategy.

Luxembourg-based CVC Capital Partners has appointed Jiri Zrust as partner and head of infrastructure, a role he will assume in March.

Currently on garden leave, according to his LinkedIn profile, Zrust joins the firm after spending 10 years within Macquarie Group’s infrastructure funds business, most recently as managing director and head of energy transition.

“Jiri’s appointment reflects an increasing strategic emphasis now being placed on investment opportunities within the broader infrastructure space coupled with a growing interest within CVC for energy transition,” the firm said in a statement.

Zrust will be part of CVC’s strategic opportunities platform, which according to the firm’s website, invests in businesses “that may not suit a traditional private equity mandate”, have a lower risk profile and a longer holding period of around six to 15 years. The geographic focus is primarily North America and Europe. Its portfolio currently comprises 13 investments across a variety of sectors, including healthcare, retail and financial services.

It also includes Exolum, in which CVC Strategic Opportunities invested in 2017, which operates the only integrated pipeline network for refined oil products and related storage in Spain. In November, CVC added another asset to its Strategic Opportunities portfolio, acquiring a 10 percent stake in the Public Power Corporation, the largest generator and supplier of electricity in Greece, in which the state now holds a reduced 34.1 percent stake.

The firm has another gas and electricity utility in its portfolio, Naturgy, which was known as Gas Natural Fenosa when CVC acquired a 20 percent stake for €3.8 billion in 2018, sits in its private equity portfolio.

This year, CVC bid for another Greek asset, the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator, the sole distributor of electricity in Greece, of which PPC is the majority shareholder. CVC was one of four bidders for the 49 percent stake on offer, losing out to Macquarie Asset Management which acquired the stake for €2.1 billion in October.

The new platform that Zrust will lead, described by Lorne Somerville, managing partner, co-chair and co-head of CVC Strategic Opportunities as an “infrastructure-plus investment platform”, is “a key component of CVC Strategic Opportunities as it expands its focus”, he said.

Second time around

This is the second time CVC has ventured into the asset class. Its first attempt was in 2009 when it sought to raise €2 billion for its debut infrastructure fund. It reached a €200 million first close (plus a further €100 million in soft commitments) in 2012, with commitments from a small group of European, Canadian and Asian investors. But in 2013, the firm abandoned its fundraising efforts after failing to achieve sufficient scale, Infrastructure Investor reported at the time.

It is unclear which infrastructure subsectors, as well as which parts of the energy transition, CVC will target this time or how much it will allocate to the asset class. The firm did not respond to a request for comment.