French civil service additional pension scheme ERAFP and the Belgian pension fund for the construction sector are among institutional investors that have signed up to a European SME debt fund recently launched by BNP Paribas Investment Partners.

The asset manager reached its target of €500m for the private debt fund at first close, which took place last Friday (30 September).

The fund finances small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe by way of bank lending and fund financing, with the fund focusing on investing mainly in senior secured debt.

A number of leading European institutional investors are involved, including major French social protection group AG2R La Mondiale, civil service pension fund ERAFP, Belgium’s Pensio B, the construction sector pension fund and the BNP Paribas Group.

The European Investment Fund (EIF), part of the European Investment Bank Group, which helps European SMEs to access financing, is also involved.

The fund is managed by BNP Paribas IP’s alternative debt team.

It is incorporated in France as a closed-end Fonds Professionnel Spécialisé (FPS), structured as a SICAV, and has Fonds de Prêt à l’Economie (FPE) and European Long-Term Investment Fund (ELTIF) status.

The fund is intended to be complementary to traditional bank loans.

David Bouchoucha, head of institutional, and Laurent Gueunier, head of alternative debt management at BNP Paribas Investment Partners, said: “We are very pleased to have completed a successful fundraising, reaching our target level of €500m at first close. 

“This confirms the strong interest from investors in an asset class that offers a compelling investment opportunity.”