Crédit Agricole sells private equity unit

Coller Capital, the UK-based secondaries funds specialist, has snapped up the private equity arm of Crédit Agricole, as well as most of the funds managed by the subsidiary.

The sale forms part of a plan to “optimize capital allocation and refocus the bank’s private equity activities,” the bank said in a statement. CA will continue to provide financing for SMEs through the private equity vehicles owned by the Crédit Agricole Regional Banks.

Crédit Agricole is the main sponsor in CAPE’s funds. The sale of Crédit Agricole Private Equity (CAPE) will reduce the bank’s risk-weighted assets by €900m, the bank said.

Coller will also acquire most of the funds managed by CAPE and owned by Crédit Agricole Capital Investment Finance, a wholly owned subsidiary of CA.

CAPE had been experiencing problems in Italy, where the Italian regulator removed CAPE as manager of its funds for suspected fraud.

The bank stated it was looking to refocus its private equity activities on local business, via its regional investment units. Based in Paris and with 95 members of staff, CAPE is a generalist fund manager active in most of the private equity space, including small- and mid-cap LBOs, venture and mezzanine. It currently manages €3.7bn worth of commitments across several funds.

The bank, France’s second biggest by assets, made the decision soon after announcing that CA would be reporting a loss for 2011, including write-downs of €2.5bn on stakes in Spain’s Bankinter and Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo. CA also announced cuts of 2,350 jobs from the investment banking and consumer finance divisions, and scrapped its dividend for 2011.

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