Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System has committed $75 million to a food fund being raised by Black River Asset Management LLC, which has more than $6 billion of assets under management. Black River, a subsidiary of $107 billion agri-business giant Cargill Inc., is raising a fund which will invest in food companies, with the focus on emerging markets like India and China.
Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, with assets of $37.3 billion, has also said that it is planning annual investment commitments of $900 million to $1.4 billion in private equity funds for the next five years.
Black River has an India office in New Delhi, headed by managing director Deepak Malik. Through Cargill Ventures, which later became a part of Black River, the firm has made several investments in India companies such as KPIT Cummins, Microland, Bakers Circle and Outsource Partners International (OPI), besides being an investor in Westbridge Capital’s early funds.
India’s consumer staples sector has attracted private equity investments of $165 million across 13 deals in 2011, according to VCCedge, research arm of VCCircle. Last year, PE investors had invested $328 million across 24 deals.
Global private equity majors like Blackstone and Carlyle have been eyeing India’s food and agriculture space. Last year, Carlyle infused Rs 110 crore in Tirumala Milk Products and US-based Summit Partners made its debut in India with $30 million investment in Krishidhan Seeds.
Recent deals include Standard Chartered Private Equity backing Delhi-based ready-to-eat food manufacturers Bush Foods Overseas and ICICI Venture’s investment in Gurgaon-based fast food & merchandise retail chain Devyani International Ltd.
There are also a couple of agriculture-focused PE funds, actively seeking investments in supply-chain firms. Rabo Equity Advisors, PE arm of the Dutch bank Rabo, has raised $120 million India Agri Business Fund and has closed six deals since its launch in 2008. SEAF (Small Enterprise Assistance Funds) is also raising an Agribusiness Fund of $75 million.