AXA Private Equity Launches Asia FoF

Paris-based AXA Private Equity has begun raising its first Asian fund-of-funds, with a closing target of between $150 million and $200 million, PE Week has learned. AXA has plans to open a new Asian headquarters in Singapore by September.

The private equity firm manages $9 billion in assets, which it invests in more than 450 different funds in Europe and the United States. The firm’s parent company – AXA, a global insurer – is the first announced LP for the fund and is expected to invest as much as half of the fund. The group also expects to draw about 20% of its commitments from pensions and the remaining 30% from other insurance companies, government organizations, family offices and high net worth individuals.

Christophe Florin, currently a managing director at AXA Private Equity, will head the Singapore office and oversee the firm’s investments. Florin says he has already selected the funds that AXA’s Asian FoF will invest in once the vehicle is established. He anticipates investing in CVC Capital, which recently closed a buyout fund of more than $1.9 billion; and Beijing-based CDH China Holdings Management Co.’s China Growth Capital Fund II, which has a target of $310 million. (The 3i Group has also invested in CDH’s fund with a $45 million commitment, see PE Week 4/26/05).

Florin says that his group, which will employ from eight to 10 investments professionals, will focus on five key geographies: China, Japan, Korea, India and Australia.

Beyond that, Florin says that it’s too early to discuss other details.

“We’re putting our toes in the water by creating this fund of funds in Asia,” Florin says. “We need to get on the ground and learn, build relationships. Manager selection in the region is not so easy because the best funds here are always oversubscribed.”

AXA Private Equity presently divides its investments into two segments – direct investments into primary fund managers for buyouts, venture and other asset classes; and into fund-of-funds and secondaries. Florin says that the Asia FoF will be “much more opportunistic.”

AXA spokeswoman Sylvie Deneubourg says that AXA launched a separate venture effort last month to be based in Singapore under Ivan Bernard Brunel, who was recruited away from Crescendo Ventures to launch the new program.