Astorg III underway

Astorg Partners has raised €110m towards its €300m target for Astorg III. The French mid-market specialist launched its latest fund six months ago and is planning a final closing in March next year. Paris-based firm Global Private Equity is acting as placement agent for the fund.

Investors in the fund include Adam Street Partners, AXA Investment Managers and Morley Fund Management. Repeat investors make up 70% of the fund at the first close. “We are happy to back Astorg Partners for the second time; they enjoy a very good reputation on the French mid-market scene, and have so far managed to go through several economic and investment cycles successfully,” says Roger Wilkins, senior fund manager at Morley Fund Management.

Astorg, known as Suez Capital Partenaires until 2001, spun out of Suez after the group decided to withdraw from direct private equity investing. Suez remains an investor in the group but has reduced its commitment to the latest fund to 10%, or less, of the fund’s total size. Astorg is hoping US and European investors will each provide a third of the fund’s capital with French institutions making up the final third. The firm’s last fund, Astorg II, raised €185m in 1999 with 20% coming from Suez. This fund was fully invested by the end of last year.

The first investment from the new fund, a BIMBO of a family-owned industrial heat treatment company, is due to be disclosed shortly. Astorg partner Joël Lacourte says the company is a high growth, profitable business that is likely to be looking for international acquisition opportunities. Other deals signed by Astorg in the past year include the acquisition of retail chain Un Jour Ailleurs and the buyout of testing laboratory, Laboratoire Pasteur-Cerba. Along with PAI Partners and Cinven, Astorg exited its investment in Frans Bonhomme, which was sold in a €520m tertiary buyout to Apax Partners.

Astorg’s investment focus remains unchanged, targeting deals of €50m to €300m with particular interest in the healthcare, retail and industrial services sectors. Xavier Moreno, managing partner, says competition in this area of the market is not too fierce. “Some funds have jumped up to €600m and at that size you start to compete with pan European funds,” he says.

Astorg lost partners Erick Fouque and Eric de Montgolfier in March last year when they left to establish a buyout fund at Rothschild. LCF Rothschild Capital Partners recently held a €87m first close for its debut fund, which is targeting €200m to invest in mid-market deals. Moreno says Astorg Partners is contemplating adding two new professionals to the existing team of ten.