3i expands further

As part of its ongoing process of internationalisation, 3i has opened an office in Hong Kong. The new office is a step further in the firm’s regional development strategy, allowing 3i better access to the venture capital markets of North Asia.

The Hong Kong office will follow 3i’s long term policy of building a balanced portfolio by location, industry sector and maturity of investment. The new office will focus on specific sectors in North Asia, encompassing both high growth opportunities and buyouts in the field of technology. In the high growth sector, the firm sees most potential in the communications, semiconductor and IT services sectors.

Brian Larcombe, chief executive of 3i, said: “We still believe that most of the fastest growth businesses will be technology driven, but also see significant potential in the private equity/buyout business – including technology buyouts – and will continue to maintain a balance across our investments.”

The new office will bridge 3i’s existing technology expertise in Singapore and buyout strengths in Japan. The Hong Kong team will work closely with 3i’s international network to lay further foundations for the firm’s long term growth in the Asia Pacific region.

And still expanding in Europe, next June 3i will open a permanent office in Lisbon, Portugal. The group already has a director in place, Ricardo Cunha Vaz, and would ideally like to bring the team up to four. Mark Heappey, investment director at 3i’s Spanish office, says there are very few firms on the ground in Portugal, mainly because it is such a small market. There are a few domestic players related to the banks, but no international funds. “We will build up a steady presence there,” he says. He adds that although it is a very underdeveloped market, deal flow is reasonably strong and he compares the region to Cataluña in Spain in terms of GDP and industry focus.

The main issue holding back the Portuguese private equity market is its size. However, over the years Portugal has sparked some opportunities for interested parties. Total number of investments in 2000 increased from 95 in 1999 to 161 in 2000, with value up from euro118.6 million to euro183.2 million, according to the European Venture Capital Association.