Hastings Funds Management has rejected claims that the departure of its head of alternative debt, George Batsakis, cruelled around $400 million of commitments to a junior debt fund it continues to raise. Batsakis left in December 2010 after four years with the Westpac Bank-owned Hastings, a couple of months before a new long-term staff incentive scheme was due to come into force, confirmed Hastings FM chief executive Steve Boulton. In addition to being chief operating officer of the listed Hastings High Yield fund, Batsakis had also lead the global fundraising effort for the Hastings Infrastructure Debt Fund No.3, a Europe-focussed vehicle which was announced a year before his departure.

At the time, Hastings said that junior debt securities issued by infrastructure businesses in developed markets would bridge the “sizeable funding gap” which had emerged in the asset class, and expected €50 billion in investment opportunities over the ensuing five years. Market sources said that $400 million of commitments to the fund were in jeopardy following Batsakis’ departure, out of a total fundraising target of $1.1 billion. European clients, in particular German pension funds, were in the most advanced stages of due diligence. Boulton said last month that no written commitments had yet been received, and while he admitted that Batsakis’ departure had caused some disruption to the fundraising process, he claimed there were “four or five other key individuals who are well-known to our potential clients for the fund”.

Chief among them is Steve Rankine, a long-term Westpac employee who runs Hastings’ UK office, and assumed the role of acting chief operating officer of Hastings High Yield Fund upon Batsakis’ departure. Some Hasting clients were confused over Rankine’s precise status when a report from the manager’s unlisted Utilities Trust of Australia last month referred to him as the “head of alternative debt”. However, Boulton said the word “acting” had been omitted in error, and that a global search to permanently replace both facets of Batsakis’ role continued, with an announcement expected in early February.

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