* Raises 1.45 bln eur fund, 300 mln eur for co-investments
* Fund eyes renewable, transport assets
* More investors buying into infrastructure
By Tommy Wilkes
LONDON, March 18 The private equity arm of
French insurance giant AXA has raised 1.75 billion
euros for investments in European infrastructure, in a further
sign of buoyant demand for road, rail and energy assets.
The AXA Infrastructure Fund III, the group's largest to
date, closed with 1.45 billion euros while investors committed a
further 300 million euros for investments outside the fund.
Mathias Burghardt, Head of Infrastructure at AXA, told
Reuters investors had bought into the fund because of the stable
yields on offer from European infrastructure and the relative
safety it offered from the region's macroeconomic woes.
"We see a lot of new investors looking for diversification.
They want to be in an asset class that has low correlation with
other asset classes and protects against inflation," he said.
"Sophisticated investors today understand that Europe
provides the most attractive deal flow opportunities to build a
core infrastructure portfolio."
German investors had become the largest backers of the
latest fund, Burghardt said, while Asian clients had also
provided more cash.
The fund will look for deals in the gas and electricity grid
and renewable energy sectors, as well as road and rail assets,
but will steer clear of ports because they are too cyclical,
Investors are pouring money into infrastructure just as
cash-strapped governments rush to privatise assets and
corporations exit non-core businesses, boosting supply.
According to data firm Preqin, infrastructure funds pulled
in $25.3 billion last year, about $3 billion more than 2011 but
down on 2010. Since 2008 investors have put $134.2 billion into
unlisted infrastructure funds.
Burghardt said "massive disposal programmes" from European
utilities like EON and RWE would aid
"The supply-demand pattern is quite good, a lot better than
it used to be," he added.
The AXA fund has already sealed four deals, including
acquiring a stake in Luxembourg power generator, transmission
group Enevos and Austrian group Verbund's French wind
AXA was also in the running to buy the TIGF gas network
business of France's Total last year but lost out to
Italian gas grid operator Snam.