Fiera Comox ag fund reaches C$200m first close

The Canadian fund management firm expects to bring in up to C$500m by year end for an open-ended fund understood to follow an agricultural investing strategy modeled on that of PSP Investments.

An open-ended agricultural fund launched this summer by Fiera Comox Partners has raised C$200 million ($157.2 million; €134.4 million) and expects to bring in an additional C$300 million by the end of the year, according to the parent company’s president and chief executive.

Speaking on Fiera Capital Corporation’s second quarter earnings call, Jean-Guy Desjardins said the Global Agriculture fund, which launched on June 30, will invest in globally diversified farmland and related assets through a joint venture called Fiera Comox.

Desjardins added that while Fiera has often built capacity in new investment areas that might take years to pay off to the detriment of near-term profits, the firm is taking steps to become “more critical” and “less patient” with strategies that have failed to reach the desired trajectory within two to three years.

“Our agricultural fund is a good example of that … Things like that will hurt our margin for a period of time until it has established track record that makes it a great, successful strategy,” Desjardins said.

“We’ve done a lot of that in the past. Right now, our focus is to do less of it. Not to do none, we’re going to keep doing some of that, but we are going to be more critical and, in a way, more diligent in our investing in new strategies that will not be profitable for three, four, five years down the road.”

Fiera Comox was established last year as a collaboration between Fiera and Comox Equity Partners, an entity created by three former Public Sector Investment Board executives: natural resources manager R Matthew Corbett, senior vice-president and chief legal officer Frederic Despars, and managing director Antoine Bisson-McLernon.

Bisson-McLernon joined Fiera Comox as partner and chief executive in August 2016 after seven years as managing director with PSP, according to his LinkedIn profile. His role at PSP included starting the pension’s global natural resources group, heading its private equity investments in the Americas and serving as a member of the firm-wide investment committee.

A source familiar with the Fiera Comox fund’s strategy told Agri Investor that it was in effect a “carbon copy” of the one spearheaded by Bisson-McLernon at PSP. Summarizing the strategy as being “private equity with land exposure,” the source said the Fiera fund will largely focus on Australia and New Zealand, with some scope to consider US investments as well.

“I think they’re targeting everyone and their dog,” the source said when asked which investor types the vehicle will look to solicit investments from. “Fiera has very deep and wide capital raising, from public market mutual funds through to institutions and everything in between.”

A Fiera representative declined to comment.