Four Italian industry-wide defined contribution (DC) pension funds – Foncer, Fondo Gomma Plastica, Pegaso and Previmoda – are investing a further €115m in private equity through the so-called ‘Progetto Iride’ (Project Iris).

The schemes announced today that they will invest the assets, managed by Neuberger Berman, in new Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) focusing on Europe, but with a significant share of allocations bound for funds investing in companies operating in Italy.

The assets will be invested in buyout and growth strategies, steering clear from investments in AIFs considering riskier strategies such as venture capital and distressed investments, a statement said.

The pension funds have already invested €216bn for private equity investments, with commitments having gone to nine AIFs so far, they said.

Neuberger Berman was picked as the private equity investment manager for both the first and the second tranche of investments.

For the second tranche, the manager can invest in its own or third-party funds, purchased in the primary or secondary market, with the aim of maximising returns, the statement said.

At least 70% of the new AIFs in the schemes’ portfolios must be classified, or declare their intention to be classified at the time of subscription as article 8 or article 9 as per the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR), the quartet added.

Neuberger Berman once more gained the Italian schemes’ trust as it has so far met expectations through its selection of AIFs, capital commitments, reporting and good performance, the schemes added in the statement.

The pension funds have reappointed the US asset manager following a public tender, the most efficient process in terms of speed of investment execution, containment of costs, and to streamline operations, they added.

Fondo Gomma Plastica was considering increasing its exposure to private equity by raising its stake in the Iride project. Its goal is to stabilise its private equity exposure over time by boosting commitments, and the Iride project is the right vehicle to do so, general director Luca Ruggeri told IPE. He added that the scheme’s current strategy target for private market investments is 8%.

Italian DC pension funds tend to invest in private markets through consortia, having selected StepStone Group to invest in private debt via AIF strategies through the Progetto Zefiro (Project Zephyr), and ECRA, a subsidiary of Eurizon Capital, for infrastructure investments through the Vesta Project.

The pension funds believe that initiatives through consortia bring added value, helping to achieve synergies in terms of diversification, sharing and reducing costs, including fees, and pooling of capital to invest.

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