Ardian to offload at least $1bn in secondaries stakes

The sale includes stakes held in its 2006-vintage AXA Secondary Fund IV, Secondaries Investor has learned.

Ardian is exploring options to sell an “over $1 billion” portfolio of private equity fund interests held in its 2006-vintage secondaries fund, Secondaries Investor has learned.

The Paris-headquartered investment firm is selling the interests held in its $2.9 billion AXA Secondary Fund IV, according to three sources familiar with the deal. It is understood that Evercore has been hired to advise on the process. It is not clear whether Ardian is also selling stakes from other funds as part of the sale.

One of the sources said that the portfolio is “over $1 billion,” and that it is still early in the process, although the source declined to specify the exact size. That would make it one of the largest-ever by a traditional buyer.

Limited partners who committed to AXA Secondary Fund IV include CDPQ, Saudi Aramco Retirement Plan and Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, according to PEI data. French government pension fund Fonds de Reserve pour les Retraites committed €198 million, the data also show.

This is not the first time Ardian has sold stakes held in its secondaries funds – in October the firm was exploring options to sell as much as $200 million worth of interests held in its 1999, 2001 and 2004-vintage secondaries funds, as Secondaries Investor reported.

It is understood Blackstone’s Strategic Partners unit was involved as a buyer of that portfolio, although it is unclear whether the deal ultimately closed.

Bloomberg first wrote that Ardian was planning to sell the portfolio.

Speaking at an industry conference in Cannes in January, Ardian’s US head Benoît Verbrugghe said large portfolio sales would return in the first half of this year.

“We believe that big transactions will be on the market, probably three or four [in] Q1-Q2 in the US,” Verbrugghe said, adding that Ardian was aware of at least “a couple of big pension funds” which were seeking to rebalance their portfolios.

Other large sales from secondaries funds include Partners Group’s two portfolio disposals in the second half of last year: an €800 million portfolio of tail-end private equity stakes held in its 2007-vintage secondaries fund, and a second portfolio of stakes worth just under $1 billion.

Ardian and Evercore declined to comment.