“We need to close the announced deal with Fondo Italiano di Investimento, which will bring us the a base portfolio for a new investment veichle focused on private Italian SMEs’ equity. After that we will list that veichle at the Italian Stock Exchange. We still need a few months to be oeprative with the project”, George Walker, chairman and chief executive officer of Neuberger Berman toldMF Milano Finanza .
Walker was referring to exclusive talks that NB is on with Fondo Italiano d’Investimento sgr (see here a previous post by BeBeez).
Mr. Walker is quite proud of this deal: “It’s quite an interesting project as it is able to link both SMEs’ need for more equity and Italian new Pir (Piani individuali di risparmio or Individual saving plans) investment funds need for liquid assets where being invested while focusing on small&mid-cap companies”. Mr. Walker is also quite happy with this project because NB believes that “Italian private equity investments are able to deploy more value for investors than public equity investments”.
As for other financial instruments to manage alternative investments such as Spac (Special acquisition companies), Mr. Walker excludes that NB will be a promoter in the future in Italy as “this king of veichle are studied to focus just on one target each time which is not a feature that we like as we prefer to build a diversified portfolio of companies”.
Finally private debt is not an issue at the moment in Italy for NB, Mr. Walker says: “NB has strong skills in the sector, above all in the unitranche market: in Europe we manage about 38 billion euros in private debt assets. At the moment we are not studying to enter this market in Italy. However if we found an interesting team to join with, we might think about taking the chance. This is what we did some years ago in the private equity sector”. Actually in 2015 NB gave brith to the NB Renaissance platform, a joint venture with former Intesa Sanpaolo’s private equity team (see here a previous post by BeBeez).
Clsing its interview with MF Milano Finanza and talking about NB’s investment approach in choosing companies where being invested, Mr. Walker stressed that the asset management company is focusing on fintech: “We strongly believe in the use of big data and that’s why we hired a chief data scientist. The man is Michael Recce, who used to work for Singapore’s sovereign fund as head of its big data project and the before that used to be chief data scientist at Point72 Asset Management. Recce has built machine learning and artificial intelligence systems able to analyze a huge number of data raised in the web too in order to gain information about the real health of companies that may be an investment target for us. This is one different way to go beyond the simple financial statements analysis to value a company”.