Cofiri makes room for Improvement

Italian investment bank Cofiri has set up a private equity division and unveiled a new fund, its first since its privatisation last year. Improvement 1 will target mainly Italian mid-market companies, but will also look at opportunities in the rest of Europe. The fund has a target of euro200 million and will be aimed at both Italian and foreign institutional investors. Cofiri has already committed euro30 million of its own capital to the fund and a first closing at euro100 million is planned for late spring. Investments will be focused on the energy and chemicals sectors, media, telecommunications, IT and leisure.

The six-strong investment team, based in Milan is being led by Marco Szemere, head of Cofiri equity investments. The new team, brought together specifically for the venture, has experience in the fields of private equity, corporate finance, primary markets, financial analysis and industrial management.

Prior to its privatisation, Cofiri had been involved in private equity through its Netherlands-based Cofiri Invest division, which was set up eight years ago. Its most prominent transaction was the acquisition and resale of IRI’s stake in Aeroporti di Roma.

The new private equity division will also be allocating funds to early stage venture capital investments and has set up Cofiri Ventures for this purpose. Cofiri SpA has committed euro15 million to the venture from its own balance sheet.On the private equity side, Improvement 1 will be targeting investments in mid-sized companies between euro5 million and euro20 million, but Szemere says it will be possible to invest up to euro40 million in a single investment. The fund aims to take a majority stake in investments.

Szemere says it is a good time for private equity in Italy. “There is a greater willingness from entrepreneurs to become involved with [private equity] investors and a greater understanding of this asset class is slowly changing attitudes in Italy.” He added that there are many attractive companies in Italy, which would benefit from an experienced financial investor among the shareholders. “Italian companies are beginning to realise that it represents an added value not only for raising financial resources, but also as a support in their growth strategy,” he said.