Fund Performance Report: Cleantech’s Unpopularity Impacts CalPERS’ Venture Portfolio

The Solyndra bankruptcy and out-of-favor cleantech investing in general left their fingerprints all over CalPERS’ venture capital portfolio last year.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System saw big declines in the current rates of return of funds from Khosla Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners and NGEN Partners, according to a VCJ analysis. It also saw a substantial fall in the IRR of one Aberdare Ventures fund focused on life sciences.

The declines were unearthed in a VCJ analysis of the pension manager’s most recent portfolio report, updated through December 2011. VCJ compared the performance of venture funds managed directly by CalPERS with performance results from a year earlier. The funds had vintages of 2004 to 2009.

The analysis did not include funds managed by CalPERS advisors, such as Grove Street Advisors, Hamilton Lane and Oak Hill Investment Management.

Among the funds with falling IRRs were Khosla Ventures III and Khosla Venture Seed, both from 2009 and both which called new capital during the year. The funds lost some momentum over 2011, although they still sport positive IRRs, achievements for such young funds.

RockPort Capital Partners II and NGEN II didn’t fare as well. Both had negative IRRs as of December 2011. RockPort Capital Partners II was an investor in solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy in the middle of last year after receiving a Department of Energy loan guarantee.

Despite the declines, the news from CalPERS wasn’t all bad. The LP had more funds with improving returns than declining ones. In fact, 18 funds that gained versus 11 that lost. Please see the accompanying chart for a complete list.

The portfolio also had more funds with positive IRRs at the end of the year than negative ones. Sixteen were in the black and 13 were not.

The portfolio is almost exclusively focused on balanced and early stage funds. More than half are from the vintage years 2006 and 2007.