Mirova, the responsible investment affiliate of Natixis Global Asset Management, has entered into exclusive negotiations to buy a majority equity interest in London-based impact investment manager Athelia Ecosphere.

The targeted acquisition is intended to create a European platform offering investment opportunities addressing major global environmental challenges such as climate change, protection of landscapes, biodiversity, and soil and marine resources.

Created in 2012, Athelia is involved in financing sustainable land use, biodiversity, and ecosystem-based climate activities, with an emphasis on “blended value” investments. It has raised and partly deployed a fund aiming to invest in carbon emission reduction projects in the forestry sector that generate carbon credits in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with commitments secured from “prominent private and public sector institutions”.

Mirova has ambitions to become a leading sustainable alternative asset manager and said the acquisition of Athelia would be a major step forward in this regard. Since 2015 it has been working alongside the UN Convention to Combat Desertification to launch a Land Degradation Neutrality fund, a public-private vehicle that intends to invest in profit-generating sustainable land management and restoration projects worldwide.

Philippe Zaouati, CEO of Mirova, said: “We strongly believe that natural capital is the next frontier of impact investment and both specialist skills and a critical size are required to successfully address this nascent but promising market.”

Flurry of sustainable fund launches

This week has seen a number of asset managers launching products with a sustainable or responsible investment tilt.

Fidelity International launched a global equity fund targeting companies with the highest ratings for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. The Fidelity FIRST ESG All Country World fund also screens out companies involved in the manufacture or distribution of alcohol, weapons, firearms, tobacco, gambling, and adult entertainment. 

Steve Edgley, head of institutional for continental Europe at Fidelity, said: “As the regulatory environment continues to evolve and investors look to invest responsibly, many of our clients are looking for innovative and robust approaches to enable them to implement ESG portfolios while continuing to achieve their risk adjusted return objectives. We have designed the Fidelity FIRST ESG approach specifically to allow clients to achieve these two goals.”

Meanwhile, Candriam Investors Group launched a range of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) combining ESG screening and smart beta factors. The five ETFs – launched under Candriam’s indexIQ brand – cover European, euro-zone, and Japanese equity indices, and euro-denominated sovereign and corporate bond indices. They are listed on the Paris Euronext Stock Exchange and the Amsterdam exchange, and are registered in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France.

Specialist emerging markets manager East Capital has launched a Sustainable Emerging Markets fund, coinciding with the company’s 20-year anniversary. The fund is managed by CIO Peter Elam Håkansson and has been seeded with investments from Nordic institutional investors.

East Capital said the fund would target “companies characterised by high growth potential and strong ESG profiles, with a clear overweight in themes relating to domestic growth and the emerging consumer”. It will specifically look for opportunities in renewable and clean technologies, and will invest in frontier markets and Chinese A-Shares.

River & Mercantile takes on EM team

Credit Suisse Asset Management’s emerging markets team is to transfer to UK fund and fiduciary manager River & Mercantile Group.

The Swiss firm’s emerging markets “industrial life cycle team”, led by Al Bryant and Todd Leigh, transferred this week. The team manages $360m (€315.6m) in equity strategies.

Filippo Rima, head of equities at Credit Suisse Asset Management, said the move was “an integral part of our focus and specialisation strategy”. James Barham, head of asset management at River & Mercantile, said it was “a significant step forward in the continued development of the group’s equity franchise”, as it will bring in Luxembourg-based strategies and products for US clients.

As of this week, the funds have transferred to River & Mercantile initially under an investment advisory agreement. Subject to regulatory approval, the Luxembourg funds will transfer fully to River & Mercantile and be rebranded.