Ardian’s secondaries deployment activity dropped in 2020

The secondaries giant's deployment fell 65% during the pandemic despite closing the largest secondaries capital pool on record.

Ardian‘s secondaries deployment dipped amid the pandemic last year, despite closing the largest pool of secondaries capital of all time for its latest programme.

The Paris-headquartered firm deployed $3.78 billion in seven secondaries transactions last year across private equity and infrastructure, according to its latest activity report.

That figure is a 65 percent drop on the $10.8 billion it deployed across 23 deals the previous year. The rate of primary commitments dropped slightly to $1.8 billion from $2.2 billion the year prior.

Ardian said its activity strengthened in the second half of last year, after the initial market disruption caused by covid-19. Its fund of funds team closed two secondaries transactions with North American pensions plans totalling $2 billion, along with more than $1 billion in aggregate deals in Europe with pension plans, a family office and a bank.

The firm also co-led a €1.2 billion transaction to lift four assets out of Antin Infrastructure Partners’ 2016-vintage Fund III.

Ardian had begun processes on more than $3.2 billion of deployment in 2020 that had not closed before the end of the year, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

In May last year, Ardian closed its ASF VIII programme on $19 billion. The firm did not expect to deploy the fund differently than it initially anticipated in light of the coronavirus crisis, head of Ardian UK Olivier Decannière told Secondaries Investor in June last year.

As of June 2021, ASF VIII was 50 percent deployed, US co-heads Mark Benedetti and Vladimir Colas said.

“We had the final close just over a year ago, so we’re definitely not in a rush [to deploy],” Colas said. “There’s no pressure or fear around deployment.” The fund is agnostic as to GP-led or LP driven opportunities, prioritising the quality of the underlying portfolio, he added.

Vincent Gombault stepped down as head of fund of funds and private debt in December, as Secondaries Investor reported. The Ardian Secondaries Fund executive committee, chaired by president Dominique Senequier, took the reins. The committee comprises seven senior executives, including Decannière, senior managing director Benoît Verbrugghe, Benedetti and Colas.

Gombault was largely credited with building Ardian’s fund of funds business into the biggest player in secondaries.

The firm raised $11 billion across all platforms last year – a 31 percent decrease on the $16 billion it collected the year prior. It distributed $8.7 billion to investors, up from $7.3 billion in 2019.

Assets under management reached $110 billion, up from $100 billion in 2019, according to the report.