AXA IM and W Capital Partners tie up in latest secondaries consolidation play

AXA Investment Managers joins a growing list of players buying up secondaries shops as it plans to tap GP-led and direct secondaries opportunities in North America.

AXA Group’s AXA Investment Managers has become the latest asset manager to snap up a secondaries shop.

AXA IM has agreed to acquire US-based W Capital Partners in a bid to expand the former’s secondaries capabilities, according to a statement. AXA joins the likes of Ares ManagementFranklin Templeton, CVC Capital Partners, Brookfield Asset Management and PGIM, which have all made acquisitions of secondaries firms or business units in recent years.

W Capital Partners, which focuses on GP-led and direct secondaries and is one the firms featured in Secondaries Investor‘s 2023 SI 50 ranking, has accumulated $1.9 billion in AUM since its establishment in 2001, according to the statement. WCP will sit within AXA IM Prime, its €35 billion unit that focuses on private markets, including private equity, private debt, infrastructure and hedge funds. The transaction is expected to close in Q2 2024, the statement noted.

Secondaries Investor understands Campbell Lutyens acted as an adviser to AXA on the transaction. AXA and Campbell Lutyens declined to comment.

In addition to the acquisition, AXA has committed $200 million to WCP’s secondaries investment strategy, the statement said.

AXA IM has been building up its secondaries capacity since launching its secondaries business in 2022. The firm has built a team of nine dedicated portfolio managers focusing on infrastructure secondaries, Secondaries Investor previously reported. In November, affiliate title Infrastructure Investor reported that AXA IM co-led an infrastructure secondaries deal alongside Ardian that involved assets managed by DWS.

The acquisition of WCP will enhance AXA IM’s presence in North America and help WCP attract more dealflow in the US and globally, the statement said.

“Our vision since launching in 2022 is to be a leading global full-service capital solutions provider to GPs in the rapidly growing private markets,” Pascal Christory, chief executive officer of AXA IM Prime, commented. “We had identified GP-led and direct secondaries as a key strategy for our portfolio of private equity products and had been looking for an approach that would combine the right levels of creativity, valuation skills and structuring expertise.”

WCP is currently in the market with WCP COF, which launched in 2022 and held a first close on $135 million last June, according to Secondaries Investor data. The firm’s fifth flagship fund, W Capital Partners V, closed on $423 million in 2022, falling short of its $500 million target.

While some asset managers have looked to gain access to the secondaries market via acquisitions, others have made an organic push into the sector. Apollo Global Management, for instance, launched its secondaries platform via the hire of a team from BlackRock in 2022. Blue Owl Capital established its secondaries unit last April and has since been in the market with its debut fund focusing on continuation vehicle transactions, Secondaries Investor reported last year.

The secondaries market hit a new fundraising record in 2023, with a total of $117.92 billion raised across all asset classes, according to Secondaries Investor data. That figure is more than double the prior year’s $53.28 billion and almost 17 percent higher than the previous record set in 2020.

– This story was updated to include more information about the transaction.