Fund performance: CalPERS portfolio sees gains from Column, Altos, Commerce

The venture investments in the Capital Link Fund of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System made solid gains through the first half of last year with funds from the Column Group, Altos Ventures and Commerce Street Capital leading the way.

No doubt this was welcome news to money managers at the CalPERS. The Capital Link portfolio has not been a hands-down winner.

The fund is managed by Credit Suisse Customized Fund Investment Group and has 12 venture funds and funds of funds. As of June 2013, the portfolio was evenly divided between winners and losers. Six had positive IRRs and six had negative ones, according to a recent portfolio performance report. This was an improvement from nine months earlier.

The reason for this is that the majority of funds – eight total – advanced during the period, with especially nice gains from the Column Group’s 2007 fund, Altos Ventures IV and Commerce Street Financial Partners, the report shows.

The Vedanta Opportunities Fund also advanced, but remained in negative territory.

The biggest turnaround came from the Column Group fund, which saw its IRR climb to 13.1% from -5.5% over the period September 2012 to June 2013, according to the portfolio report. The fund has invested in PTC Therapeutics, which went public last year, and Aragon Pharaceuticals, which was bought by Johnson & Johnson.

Altos Ventures IV, the top venture fund in the portfolio, also posted a noticeable gain. Its IRR rose to 16.6% from 12% in September 2012. Commerce Street Financial Partners from 2009 reported an IRR of 8.8%, up from 2% nine months earlier.

Longitude Venture Partners, a 2008 fund, pulled back somewhat, but still retained an attractive 16.6% IRR. Its investments include Jazz Pharmaceuticals.

At the bottom of the list are Syndicated Communications Venture Partners V, with an IRR of -24.2%, and Craton Equity Investors I, with an IRR of -11.6%.

The accompanying table lists the 12 funds with their commitment levels, distributions and IRRs.