Natixis Investment Management has created a new asset manager exclusively focused on infrastructure by separating the core infrastructure team from Mirova into a new unit.
The Paris-based group has created Vauban Infrastructure Partners, which will be led by Gwenola Chambon, former head of infrastructure funds at Mirova and now chief executive of Vauban. She will be joined by Mounir Corm as deputy chief executive.
The decision is designed to mirror recent similar moves by the group. Last year, Natixis created Flexstone Partners, which involved merging its regionally-separated private equity firms into a single private equity-focused manager, while setting up separate dedicated asset managers for private debt and real estate.
Mirova has been investing in infrastructure and renewables since 2005. The infrastructure team’s assets under management, which will all be transferred to the new venture, total €2.2 billion. The renewables team will stay at Mirova, which will henceforth be an arm of Natixis focused solely on impact investing. It remains in fundraising mode for its fourth renewable energy vehicle, which is targeting €500 million.
“We have reached a stage of development which makes sense for us to create a dedicated asset manager for this asset pool,” Chambon told Infrastructure Investor. “Given the AUM, it is time for us to be a dedicated asset manager in order for us to be more visible.”
The infrastructure unit has invested in more than 50 assets across Europe through five funds, including the Mirova Core Infrastructure Fund II, which it closed last year on €1.2 billion. Corm has said that co-investments could bring the fund’s total deployment to between €1.6 billion and €1.8 billion.
“The growth of our business in the past years diversified our client base and we need to be set up as a specific business to be dedicated to our infrastructure client,” he added.
The pair said LPs had reacted positively to the move, with Chambon stating that the separation showed Natixis’s dedication to infrastructure and was a statement of support for the team. The LP base for the core infrastructure funds retains a significant French component, though most of its investors are from elsewhere in Europe and Asia.
Vauban is set to remain focused on the existing strategy in the near term. This has involved investing in mid-market European infrastructure, focusing on digital infrastructure, transport, social infrastructure and energy-related investments such as district heating and smart meters. It is planning to launch a new fund before the end of the year, with MCIF II nearly fully deployed. However, Chambon and Corm said it was too early to comment on the potential size, though they envisage an international expansion over the longer term.
“We increasingly have opportunities to go beyond that reach and out of Europe,” Chambon explained. “We will probably explore at some point dedicated strategies for North America and Asia, but that will be at a later stage.”