Energy Shop Eyes Fund III As Industry Attracts More Firms

Energy-focused buyout firm Tenaska Capital Management LLC is preparing to raise its third fund and is likely to launch the process later this year, sister magazine Buyouts reported late last week, citing two sources.

The firm has held informal discussions with placement agents but has not yet hired one. Fundraising groups from Greenhill & Co. and Lehman Bros. helped the firm raise its previous fund, according to Buyouts archives. That fund closed with $2.5 billion in commitments in late 2008.

Tenaska Capital has not decided how much it will seek for the latest fund, Tenaska Power Fund III LP, though one of the sources said Tenaska would likely seek to raise $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

Over the last two years, buyout firms have ramped up their investments in the energy and power sectors, particularly in oil and natural gas markets that are benefiting from advances in drilling technology and relatively high commodity prices. In recent days an investor group led by Apollo Global Management LLC agreed to buy El Paso Corp’s exploration division in a deal valued at $7.15 billion, and The Blackstone Group announced it was investing $2 billion into Cheniere Energy Partners, which operates a liquefied natural gas terminal in Louisiana.

Energy and power is a frontier of sorts for buyout shops, when considering the types of deals they’re executing. From Oct. 1, 2009, through Sept. 30, 2011, U.S.-based sponsors closed at least 95 control-stake deals in the sector with a disclosed deal value of $8.2 billion, according to Thomson Reuters, publisher of Buyouts. About 61 percent of those deals could be characterized as new, or platform, acquisitions; by contrast, only around 13 percent of all control-stake acquisitions in 2010 could be called platforms.

Within energy, oil and gas was the most popular sector over the last two years, with 39 deals with a disclosed deal value of $4 billion. The power sector came next, with 17 deals and a disclosed deal value of $2.9 billion. Alternative energy sources was third, with 14 deals and $816 million in disclosed deal values.

Formed in 2002, Tenaska Capital manages approximately $4 billion in assets in the power and energy sectors. Its portfolio includes Big Sandy Peaker, a Kenova, W.Va.-based natural gas-powered electricity generating plant, and Voyager Midstream, a Houston-based developer of natural gas storage facilities.

Past investors in Tenaska funds have included the Denver Public Schools Retirement System, Mutual of Omaha Insurance and the New Jersey State Investment Council, according to the Dow Jones Directory of Alternative Investment Programs.

Tenaska Capital is hardly alone in seeking investors for an energy focused fund. ACON Investments has so far raised $400 million for its third fund, which targets energy and energy services-related companies, as Buyouts recently reported. And Lime Rock Partners has reportedly raised about half of the $1.4 billion in commitments it is targeting for its sixth fund.

Jana Martin, a spokeswoman for Tenaska Capital, declined to comment.

Bernard Vaughan is a senior editor at Buyouts Magazine. Follow his tweets @BVaughanReuters. Follow Buyouts tweets @Buyouts.