UPDATE 1-Carlyle's commodity arm starts trading new gold and base metals fund

Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:24pm GMT

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(Adds second portfolio manager for Aeris; name of private equity unit that bought Traxys)

By Barani Krishnan

March 20 (Reuters) - Vermillion, the commodity arm of U.S. private equity group Carlyle Group LP, started trading a new gold and base metals fund this month as it seeks to rebuild market presence after losing more than half of its capital, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

In a regulatory filing dated Feb. 14, Vermillion's chief operating officer, Christopher Zuech, said the Aeris Metals Fund had raised $122.5 million from 23 investors in total. The filing did not state the launch date.

Carlyle spokesman Randy Whitestone declined comment.

Aeris, focused on both physical and derivatives trading, is one of the first commodity fund launches of the year, after a tumultuous 2013 when institutional cash left the space to chase a rally in equities. Commodity-focused hedge funds were also roiled by lower volatility last year.

Trading at Aeris will be overseen by Greg Buechele and James Tatum, both portfolio managers for precious and base metals at New York-based Vermillion Asset Management, sources said.

Buechele was a commodity index products manager and timber trader at Goldman Sachs before he joined Vermillion in 2007 to assist in trading base and precious metals and develop livestock market strategies.

Tatum was head of European base metals trading at Ireland's Susquehanna Investment Group before joining Vermillion in 2011.

Despite Vermillion's ups and downs in commodities, it has "won a liking for its physical premium play in metals, combined with options trading", said the manager of a rival metals hedge fund in New York.

"That's one reason they've been able to get good support from outside investors for this new venture," he said.

Separately, Carlyle, with prominent hedge fund manager Louis Bacon and other investors, is acquiring a majority stake in metals trader Traxys Group through the U.S. Equity Opportunity Fund, one of Carlyle's private equity funds. The investment comes as big banks scale back on commodities.

Aeris is the sixth fund within Vermillion, whose assets under management fell from above $2 billion in March 2013 to around $900 million by December.

Carlyle, which bought Vermillion in 2012, said in January that Vermillion will also be responsible for one of its upcoming commodity mutual funds, called the Carlyle Enhanced Commodity Real Return.

Founded by Drew Gilbert and Chris Nygaard in 2005, Vermillion trades agricultural products, metals, energy and staples such as coffee, sugar and cocoa beans. Gilbert and Nygaard remain co-chief investment officers at the firm. (Reporting by Barani Krishnan; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Paul Simao)