The Real Economy Project (Progetto Economia Reale) – a series of fund of funds (FoFs) launched by Assofondipensione in partnership with Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), the partly state-owned investment bank, and asset manager Fondo Italiano d’Investimento – has set an investment target of €200-250m for its infrastructure vehicles.

Giovanni Maggi, president of Assofondipensione, the Italian association of industry-wide pension funds known as ‘fondi negoziali’, told IPE that the infrastructure FoFs, which form the “third leg” of the project, could start as soon as this autumn. He added that investments will have sustainability criteria.

CDP will not invest in the infrastructure FoFs as it did in the other two legs of the Real Economy Project – private equity and private debt – “because it already has direct investments”, Maggi explained.

CDP has so far invested €300-€550m in the project’s private equity FoFs and €250m in the private debt FoFs.

Fondo Italiano d’Investimento will start to set up the infrastructure vehicles once seven or eight fondi negoziali provide a soft or hard commitment to the investments, Maggi said.

CDP, Assofondipensione and Fondo Italiano d’Investimento launched the Real Economy Project in 2019 with the a goal to support the Italian economy with capital deployed by pension funds to invest in domestic infrastructure, private equity and private debt assets.

The trio agreed to establish the FoFs Private Equity Italia and Private Debt Italia. Pension funds Arco Fondo Pensione, Concreto, Prevedi, Laborfonds, Byblos and Pegaso have already contributed with a total of €120m to the project, Maggi said.

“But there are at least 10 other [pension] funds that are seriously considering investing and I believe it is possible that in the end 15-20 fondi negoziali will invest in this project, plus some pre-reform funds (fondi pre-esistenti) for sure,” to reach the overall target of €500m.

The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the investment process, he noted, but said that the public-private partnership between Assofondipensione and CDP is the start of a collaboration that will solidify and expand in the coming years “because it is in everyone’s interest that part of the resources of the complementary second pillar [pension system] are invested, with an eye on the risk component”.

In a medium to long term, at least 10% of the fondi negoziali’s assets, now €60bn, will be invested in private markets with a focus on Italy, he added.

The collaboration between CDP and Assofondipensione  is an example of other such projects to be built in the future, “which I hope will be coordinated by Assofondipensione,” Maggi said.

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