Mining for returns

Pamodzi has unveiled the largest private equity fund in South African history and plans to use the $1.3bn vehicle to invest in infrastructure related to the mining sector.

Pamodzi Investment Holdings, South Africa's largest black-owned investment company, has launched a $1.3 billion (€966 million) private equity fund to invest in the country's mining sector and related infrastructure.

The vehicle, which will be Africa's largest private equity fund, plans to invest not only in the mines themselves but also in the infrastructure around them, according to Ndaba Ntsele, the chief executive officer at Pamodzi.

The fund will invest in energy-related infrastructure sites such as ports, railways, power stations and facilities crucial to transporting raw materials from inland mines to the global markets. Geographically, the fund will be looking for opportunities across sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Mozambique and Nigeria, according to Ntsele.

The fund, which will have a life span of ten years, has received commitments from a number of US investors including affiliates of American Metals and Coal International and energy investor First Reserve, both headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut. The vehicle will have a maximum individual investment size of $325 million, Ntsele says, adding that the firm will prefer to take a controlling interest in its investments. He also predicts that a number of the properties which are acquired could be taken to an IPO.

Prior to the Pamodzi fund, Africa's largest private equity fund was Brait Private Equity's Brait Fund IV, which has 6 billion rand ($818 billion; €606 billion) in capital.

South Africa has sparked increased interest as of late. Earlier this year, private investment firm Bain Capital acquired Edcon, South Africa's largest fashion retailer, for 25 billion rand— the country's biggest private equity deal to date.

Last year, CDC, the UK government-backed emerging markets private equity investor, committed $100 million to a new private equity real estate fund focused on Africa. Actis Africa Real Estate Fund targets investments in the office and retail space.

Pamodzi was founded in 1996 by Ntsele and Solly Sithole, former founders of Pamodzi Property Developers.

JER targets Latin America
McLean, Virginia-based JER Partners, the global real estate investment arm of the JE Robert Companies, has established an advisory board to support its expansion into Latin America. The board will be chaired by José María Aznar, the former Prime Minister of Spain. It will include Pedro Aspe, principal of Evercore Partners and the former Secretary of Finance of Mexico; Roberto Dañino, the former Prime Minister of Peru; and Francisco Gros, the former head of Brazil's Central Bank. When asked whether JER was raising a Latin American fund, a spokesperson for the firm declined to comment.

Blackstone to open Tokyo office
The Blackstone Group is set to open a real estate office in Tokyo, sources familiar with the matter said. Blackstone reportedly plans to shift key staff from other offices to the new Tokyo office and has hired Daniel Fuji, the head of private equity at Japanese lender Shinsei Bank, to help launch the effort. Prior to working for Shinei, Fuji was managing director at ICG Japan KK where he specialized in management buyouts and forming venture businesses. Blackstone set up an office in Mumbai to focus on private equity and real estate transactions in 2005 and a Hong Kong office to focus on private equity in January.

Ascendas to invest $924m in China
Singapore business park developer Ascendas has set up two real estate funds in China totaling 7 billion yuan ($924 million; €669 million), the Chinese government's Caijing magazine reported. The two vehicles will be five-year, closed- end funds. The first fund, Ascendas China Industrial and Business Parks Fund, is expected to invest up to 3 billion yuan in industrial and business park assets, while the second fund, Ascendas China Commercial Fund, will invest 4 billion yuan in commercial properties in firsttier Chinese cities.

CIMB-Mapletree plans next Asia fund
CIMB-Mapletree Real Estate Fund 2, a joint venture between CIMB Real Estate of Malaysia and Mapletree Capital Management of Singapore, is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2008 with a target of RM1 billion ($290 million; €211 million). The fund will seek to attract institutional investors from the Middle East, Europe and Malaysia, according to chief executive officer Raja Noorma Othman. So far, the fund already has commitments of RM200 million.