Exclusive: Meridiam nears first close on Africa fund

The milestone will likely see the Paris-based fund manager collect at least half its €300m target, with a final close on the 15-year vehicle expected this summer.

Meridiam Infrastructure is looking to seal a first close on its debut Africa fund within the next few weeks, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The milestone is likely to bring the French fund manager past the halfway mark towards its target of €300 million. Limited partners in the vehicle, which has a 15-year tenure, will include both existing and new Meridiam investors.

They will mainly comprise pension funds, insurance companies and development finance institutions, the sources said. Many of them will be investing in African infrastructure for the first time.

Meridiam declined to comment.

Officially launched in September 2014, the vehicle is expected to reach a final close by the summer of this year. It will seek to invest in sectors including renewable energy, conventional power, transport and social infrastructure, with revenues covered by long-term contracts with public and private counterparties.

The fund aims to plug the ‘development gap’ holding back African infrastructure by bringing projects that have not yet been invested to commercial and financial close. It is looking to hold significant equity stakes in mid-cap projects, the average size of which will be between €200 million and €700 million.

These will be funded through a non-recourse, project finance-type structure.

The news comes after a busy start to the year for Meridiam on other fronts. Last month, the firm was part of the consortium selected to build the €265 million E18 Hamina-Vaalimaa motorway in Finland; it had previously acquired 50 percent of Via Solutions Thüringen, the operator of a section of Germany’s A4 Autobahn, from German developer Hochtief in February.

Along with Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, Meridiam the same month signed a 50-year concession that will see the transformation of terminals located in Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais, in Northern France, into a single port.

With an estimated cost of €900 million, the scheme was the first project put forward by the country as part of the European Commission’s €315 billion Juncker plan.