Energy firm ramps up back office

Energy Investors Fund is building its team amid recent growth in its assets under management

San Francisco-based Energy Investors Fund, a private equity firm that focuses exclusively on the US energy industry, is expanding its investment team to take advantage of recent activity in the energy market.

The firm last year closed its seventh fund on $1.35 billion, a sizeable jump from its $735 million second fund, and surpassed the original target of $1 billion. Energy Investors is using those funds to continue its strategy of acquiring mid-market US power and energy generation and transmission assets with long-term take-off contracts.

While Energy Investors' managing partner John Buehler said two to four new people are typically hired by the firm after a fund closing, the higher closing amount for the latest fund and the large number of assets acquired in the last year necessitated bringing on more skilled personnel. “With more deals to monitor, the investment management side needed to be beefed up,” Buehler said. “We have larger fund sizes and more LPs.”

Energy Investors' new team members include vice president and assistant general counsel Alycia Goody, who joins the firm from Calpine Corporation. Goody will provide legal support for corporate and portfolio investment matters, which Buehler says is becoming more critical as more complex regulatory issues in the power sector arise.

New vice president Andrew Pike, formerly of Wells Fargo's debt capital and markets team, is responsible for the management of portfolio investments, with a focus on selling individual assets or monetising entire portfolios.

Associates Noshir Irani and Ben Pike will help originate, analyse, structure and close new fund investments, while Christina Anzel is joining as director of fundraising, marketing and investor relations. Buehler said while Energy Investors has a few outside resources it is looking to keep the majority of its fundraising operations internal.

Since the fund's close it has acquired an 80 percent interest in 14 operating gas and coal power plants from Cogentrix Energy, as well as a 100 percent interest in a high-BTU landfill gas facility in Kansas. Energy Investors has also recently helped Solar Power Partners, which develops, owns and operates solar energy facilities and sells solar-generated electricity in the US and Hawaii, raise around $100 million in financing in 2008.

The firm's seven funds have made more than 100 investments with a combined asset value of around $7 billion, with its operations overseen by offices in New York, Boston and San Francisco. Buehler says despite the current credit crunch, the market for energy projects is ideal due in part to the aging power network and the need for increased energy capacity to avoid future blackouts. Since closing the last fund a little more than a year ago, Energy Investors has already committed 75 percent of its capital. “That means it will be time to organise another one soon,” he said.