A talk with Gabirele Blei, CEO of one of the leading private equity companies

Despite the delays in the dosing of vaccines in Europe, in addition to the desperate situation in India and the resurgence of COVID 19  in Japan, the world economy of 2021 is showing very encouraging signs. According to the spring edition of the IMF's World Economic Outlook , the global economy should grow by at least 6% during the year according to estimates, confirmed by the excellent start of the American GDP .

The financial markets have also reached and exceeded pre-2020 levels. Taking an overall look at the different situations that have distinguished themselves internationally in these first months of the year, the activism and performance of Azimut Holding  is striking. The Italian company is among the world leaders in the private savings sector and manages masses of capital for almost 70 billion euros. We talked about it with its CEO Gabriele Blei .

The first quarter of 2021 recorded extremely positive results for Azimut.

From a net inflows point of view, the Azimut Group recorded € 9.4 billion in inflows in the first quarter of 2021 (including the acquisition of Sanctuary Wealth), bringing assets under management to over € 72 billion, a new record for the company. Specifically, in the first quarter, the Group raised € 2.5 billion net of the acquisition of Sanctuary Wealth, equal to 2.6x the net inflows recorded in the same time span of 2020.

We also continued our activity in Private Markets, particularly in the United States, where in March we signed an agreement with the family offices of the Bezos and Moross families, to develop HighPost, a private equity company focused on the consumer sector.

The quality of management decisions also contributed significantly to these commercial developments in the first quarter, supported by our global asset management team, which generated a positive net weighted average performance of around 4% for customers since the beginning of the year, higher than the Azimut Morningstar index of c. 2%.

All of this makes us confident of starting the first quarter of the year in the right way to reach the target of net profit of 350 million euros in 2021.

Azimut began the year in an extremely dynamic way: we recall, among many others, the KAAN capital operations and the minority stake in HighPost Capital, which has also been talked about a lot due to the presence of Mark Bezos, brother of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. What significance do these operations have on a strategic level? Are these different operations or is it the outline of a long-term strategy?

The strategy is clear and the path was drawn many years ago: we want to continue to be a boutique, while preserving independence, flexibility and speed of execution. This allows us to be the only ones working in 17 countries, developing the integration between management and distribution wherever possible, without conflicts of interest. We have added to this the desire to democratize alternative products to allow retail investors to have access to asset classes that have historically generated higher returns than traditional asset classes (7-10% in alternative credit and 12-16% in private equity). In a context of low interest rates and financial markets that could reverse the positive trend, we are giving our customers and our distribution networks a concrete opportunity to continue offering an innovative service with positive returns in the medium to long term.   

From now to the end of the year, what are the goals? How do you see the evolution in the market in the year of the restart?

We have the goal of reaching 350 million euros in net profit under normal market conditions. The year is still long, but after the first quarter we are confident that we will accomplish this challenging goal.

Financial markets tend to anticipate good news and, in this case, thanks to the launch of the vaccination campaign in many countries, markets have started to run again, albeit the presence of some factors that should not be underestimated, including the increase in long term rates and the return of inflation, as well as multiples and valuations are starting to rise, which could accentuate volatility in the markets.