Mumbai: Financial services-focused Edelweiss group’s Edelweiss Alternative Asset Advisors Ltd (EAAA), an investment manager, on Thursday announced that it will soon launch an infrastructure-focused fund—Edelweiss Infrastructure Yield Plus—for which the firm plans to raise as much as Rs6,500 crore (approx $1 billion).

Edelweiss is targeting a base size of Rs2,000 crore for the fund, with a green shoe option to raise up to Rs4,500 crore more.

In November, Mint reported that the Edelweiss group was planning to launch a $1 billion infrastructure-focused fund.

The proposed Edelweiss infrastructure fund will be just the third major infrastructure-focused fund to be raised by a domestic institution in India in the last several years, following IDFC Alternatives and a joint venture between Tata Power Co. Ltd and ICICI Venture Funds Management Co. Ltd.

India’s massive need for investment in infrastructure and the need for infrastructure companies to exit their operating assets to deleverage their balance sheets is the opportunity that Edelweiss is looking to tap, said Nitin Jain, global chief executive, global asset and wealth management, Edelweiss, in an interview.

“Infrastructure is a large asset class in India and globally. To meet the growing needs of the country, there is significant capital expenditure which has been incurred during the last 10-15 years and will continue to be incurred for the next 20-30 years," Jain said.

However, historically, the sector has faced huge execution risks, project delays and the returns on such under-construction assets were not commensurate with the execution risks, he added.

“In the last 5-10 years, a significant amount of investment has gone into building these assets and as per market estimates, we currently have about $700 billion of operating assets, out of which approximately 40% is owned by the private sector. Existing infrastructure and construction companies are seeking to monetize their operating assets to raise/recycle capital or deleverage their balance sheet," Jain said.

In this situation, Edelweiss sees an opportunity to aggregate good quality operating assets and generate mid-teen returns for investors.

“Globally, infrastructure is recognized as a sustainable asset class and a desirable alternative to volatile equity markets and low-yielding fixed income investments. Good quality infrastructure assets can provide long-term, predictable yields to investors," Jain said.

This is the first time that Edelweiss will invest in equity in the infrastructure sector, despite the group’s long track record of servicing infrastructure companies across its various businesses.

“Over the last decade, we have successfully built various businesses with exposure to the infrastructure space such as equity and debt capital markets, advisory, etc. on the franchise side and capital investment through our credit and distress businesses. Edelweiss did not participate in equity investments in infrastructure previously as most of these opportunities were for under-construction assets with high risk," Jain said.

The infrastructure fund will primarily look at buying operating assets in the highways, renewable and transmission space with a credible revenue counter-party, low operating costs and long residual life.

“We aim to aggregate good quality assets into a large platform, enhance its value by doing financial and operational improvement and then look to sell the business to a strategic player or a large financial investor or opt for an exit through the InvIT route," said Jain.

The Edelweiss Infrastructure Yield Plus will be registered as a Category 1 alternative investment fund (AIF).

The firm is currently awaiting Securities and Exchange Board of India approval and will launch the fund immediately after. Edelweiss is targeting a first close during the first quarter of the next calendar year.

“We are targeting both foreign and domestic investors. Global investors such as pension funds, insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds, etc. can participate in this fund. Domestic investors will include insurance companies, select family offices, corporate treasury, bank treasury and ultra high net-worth individuals," Jain said.

The fund will be led by Edelweiss’ Subahoo Chordia, who has over 18 years of experience in the infrastructure space and has been with Edelweiss for over 10 years.

Kunnasagaran Chinniah, former global head of infrastructure at Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, has joined the investment committee of the fund.

“We have been building a very competent investment and operating team. The operating team comes with relevant industry experience of over 18-20 years working with very large and reputable institutions/companies. They will focus on managing and improving the operations of the assets by implementing a robust system and processes," Jain said.

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