Actis backs East Africa development company

Using capital from its second Africa-focused private equity real estate fund, the London-based emerging markets private equity firm has acquired a 60 percent stake in Nairobi-based development management firm Mentor.

Actis, the London-based emerging markets private equity firm, has increased its exposure to African real estate through the purchase of a majority stake in development management business, Mentor.

PERE can reveal that Actis, which is investing out of its second private equity real estate fund, has acquired a 60 percent position in the Nairobi-based firm with a view to increasing its investments in East Africa. Actis, which is partially-owned by the UK government, would not divulge how much the stake cost.

According to David Morley, Actis’ partner in charge of its real estate exploits, Actis was attracted to investing in Mentor on the back of the ‘strong project management and construction management skills’ of the 10 staff strong firm.

Actis will now enhance the business by bolting on more staff. In the first instance, it has hired a new chief executive officer, James Hoddell, a real estate development professional with 20 years of experience in Europe. Hoddell was previously a partner at Milan-based real estate advisory business EPF Europrogetti & Finanza, formerly QiREF, a managing director at Bologna-based firm Pantheon Retail Italia, development head at Healy & Baker (now Cushman & Wakefield) and estate and development managers at Slough Estates (now Segro).

In addition to the hire of Hoddell, Morley told PERE that Mentor would receive five additional hires before it was considered at full strength.

Mentor is expected to work on Actis’ current pipeline of East African developments with an initial focus on retail-led, mixed-use schemes. Morley said the firm was already working on ‘a couple’ of initial transactions but that it was too early to reveal any more details on the deals at this time. He said the firm would invest ‘in most asset classes other than upper income housing in the region’.

Mentor is the third development management platform to be backed by Actis. The investment comes on the heels of its 80 percent purchase of Laurus Development Partners, a similar-focused business based in Accra, Ghana, in May. In 2009, Actis backed IOREC, the Indian Oceanic region-focused development company, based in Port Louis, Mauritius.

Following the investment in Mentor, Actis’s investment portfolio is now 43 percent located in Africa, reflecting more than $1.5 billion invested in 18 countries.

With a predominant focus on private equity investments, the firm has $4.6 billion in funds under management in total currently.