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Apax goes into Digital Bridges and bolero.net

Apax Partners in mid-September announced two Internet-related investments in quick succession. The first was bolero.net, for which Apax acted as lead investor in a $30 million private placement. bolero.net is an electronic trade community created by the international financial messaging co-operative SWIFT (Society for World-wide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) and The TT Club, a mutual insurance vehicle for container fleet carriers, ports and terminals and logistics companies. Launched last September, bolero.net. which acts as a neutral third party to ensure secure delivery and receipt of information within a binding legal structure, is effectively a global initiative to move trade onto the Internet. bolero.net, which provides secure electronic transmission of data and documents along the entire trade chain from front-end order processing to back-end trade document exchange, offers significant cost advantages over traditional paper-based trade documentation. The electronic trade community has already signed up 40 major banks, shipping companies, trading houses and business-to-business exchanges.

The bolero.net placement was arranged by UBS Warburg, and Tim Wright and Richard Lenane of Apax Partners both join the bolero.net board.

A few days after the bolero.net deal, Apax announced that it had joined forces with Argo Global Capital for a GBP10 million investment in Digital Bridges, a leading provider

of interactive entertainment for wireless platforms.

Two-year-old Digital Bridges, which is based in Scotland, already offers 18 live multi-player games on nine different wireless devices in seven different languages. The firm has also established strategic partnerships with major mobile operators in the UK, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, North America, the Philippines and South Africa as well as with wireless content developers to enable distribution of services via mobile operator portals.

The mobile entertainment market is becoming highly attractive to the major mobile phone operators and already accounts for around half of all wireless data service revenues in Japan. (And, thanks to Digital Bridges, we may yet have to endure a second wave of Tamagotchi’ type pets. The company is currently developing a Wireless Pets’ game, where players tend their cyber creatures by phone. Those who fail to care for the beasts adequately will suffer the removal of their virtual furry friend by the Society for the Protection of Wireless Pets.)

Through its GSM Capital and Argo II funds, Argo Global Capital manages a $400 million plus pool of capital dedicated for the wireless industry and the convergence of wireless and the Internet. Argo Partner Alan MacIntosh, who joins the Digital Bridge board alongside Stephen Grabiner of Apax, comments: “Digital Bridges has proven that its open technology platform combined with its compelling wireless content helps mobile operators win in this explosive new market”.