The University of Texas saw the value of its $24.1 billion endowment shrink as oil and gas prices plunged. That hasn’t stopped its managers from making new bets on the energy sector.
The University of Texas Investment Management Co., known as Utimco, has pledged money to an Oaktree Capital Group LLC buyout fund that focuses on energy companies and others that invest in more traditional oil and gas ventures, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg. The investments were made in the year through Nov. 30.
The investment company, which is based in Austin, has about $1 billion in private energy funds, as part of a $2 billion natural resources portfolio, according to Bruce Zimmerman, the chief executive officer. Utimco said in an annual report published last month that it’s been increasing exposure to natural resources, along with real estate, as it looks to exploit market opportunities. It has $1.9 billion of commitments to the sector that it has yet to fund, Zimmerman said.
“We’ll be able to invest money at the bottom of the cycle,” Zimmerman said Feb. 10 at a meeting of the public university system’s board of regents, according to his remarks in a video posted on the school’s website. Zimmerman declined to comment further about the endowment.
Petroleum prices have plummeted in the last year, with West Texas Intermediate trading at less than $27 a barrel this month, down more than 70 percent from its 2014 high.
The decline has hurt the University of Texas, which counts on revenue from oil and gas reserves to help fund school operations. Oil companies drill on state-owned land and pay royalty revenue that is managed by Utimco. That money peaked at $1.1 billion two years ago after advances in hydraulic fracturing and fell almost 30 percent to $806 million in the year ended Aug. 31, according to annual reports.
Texas A&M University shares in the royalties, and most of its $10.5 billion endowment is also overseen by Utimco.
“My concern is we may have greater energy exposure than we realize,” Alex Cranberg, a university regent who is chairman of exploration and energy investor Aspect Holdings LLC, said at the board meeting. “Given our extreme reliance on oil and gas income, it behooves us to take a look at what correlates in our portfolio.”
Utimco was modeled after other university investment management companies such as Harvard University’s and is overseen by a nine-member board that includes Kyle Bass, founder of Dallas-based hedge fund Hayman Capital Management, and Jeffery Hildebrand, CEO of Houston-based oil and gas producer Hilcorp Energy Co.