Feb 1, 2017

BlackRock makes big bet on energy infrastructure

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata

BlackRock has agreed to buy the energy infrastructure business of private equity firm First Reserve, including a 37-person team and two funds that had raised a combined $3.7 billion. Only around half of the newer fund ― a $2.5 billion vehicle raised in 2014 ― is called down, and BlackRock does plan to eventually raise a third fund. No financial terms of the transaction have been disclosed, although First Reserve is expected to retain at least some ownership stake in the existing funds.

Why it's a big deal: This seems to be a Hail Mary for First Reserve, which will be left with a core private equity product that has really struggled in recent years (in terms of fundraising, returns and staff stability). First Reserve was long viewed as the biggest fish in the energy private equity pond but, if this refocusing doesn't work out, it may have just jettisoned its only life preserver.

Bottom line: "Executives from BlackRock and First Reserve met through their 2015 purchase of a 45% stake in a natural-gas pipeline project in Mexico... The Pemex project brings U.S. natural gas to central Mexico, a channel that has helped support gas prices in the U.S. Some analysts warn that trade policies limiting that flow of energy could increase a domestic gas glut and harm prices." -- WSJ

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