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Arkansas Teacher Retirement System bets on airplane financing

  • Arkansas Teacher Retirement System backs WNG Capital fund for $30 mln
  • Firm specializes in acquiring aircraft
  • WNG’s debut fund netting 14 pct

Arkansas Teacher Retirement System is making a foray into the aircraft-leasing business.

The $14.6 billion retirement system committed $30 million through its private equity program to a new fund being raised by WNG Capital, Executive Director George Hopkins said in an email. The allocation was approved at the June 4 ATRS meeting.

WNG is a Dallas- and Dublin-based specialist in acquiring and leasing commercial aircraft.

Former Deutsche Bank executives Michael Gangemi and Al Nigro founded WNG Capital in 2009. The co-founders contributed to the launch of Deutsche Bank’s aircraft-trading and financing unit, which was part of a special-situations team led by Gangemi.

The firm’s purchased 59 aircraft since its inception. WNG’s sold 17 and leased many more to airlines like Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.

SEC filings for Fund II did not reveal a target. WNG Capital’s debut fund was netting a 14 percent internal rate of return, retirement system documents say.

“The manager has an advantage in that there are only a few dedicated aircraft fund managers that have the required expertise and resources to invest in this market and many investment opportunities are exclusive to these types of experienced managers,” a meeting summary the retirement system provided says.

The firm and Hopkins did not respond to requests for further comment.

In addition to its allocation to WNG Capital, Arkansas committed $30 million to SK Capital Fund V, which is targeting $1.4 billion to invest in specialty-chemical and pharmaceutical companies. SK Capital closed Fund IV in 2014 on a little more than $1 billion.

SK is led by Co-Founders Barry Siadat and Jamshid Keynejad and Managing Directors Jack Norris, Aaron Davenport and James Marden.

Action Item: For more on ATRS: www.artrs.gov