Charterhouse comes in under target

Charterhouse Capital Partners, the London-headquartered buyouts house and investor in the AA and Saga, has closed its ninth fund on €4bn, €2bn less than it was looking for.

The firm, which also has a base in Paris, launched CCP IX in September 2008 with €6bn in its sights. However, a difficult fund raising environment forced Charterhouse to close on €4bn.

Investors in the vehicle include the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System, which is to invest up to €14m, New Jersey State Investment Council, which has committed US$50m, the San Francisco Employees Retirement System, which parted with €25m, the University of Michigan, which invested €25m, and Washington State Investment Board, which has allocated up to US$300m.

The Charterhouse management team has made a 1% commitment to the fund. It will target upper mid-marker opportunities in the UK and France, adopting an opportunistic strategy in regards to other countries. It will look to make equity investments of between €200m and €600m per deal, concentrating on eight sectors: financial services, healthcare, retail, telecoms, catering, media, support services and engineering.

The firm is also looking to make two or three new hires to the investment team to expand their Continental Europe coverage. The new executives are expected to be Spanish or German.

The closing comes just after the worst ever quarter for private equity fund raising for six years. According to research analysts Preqin, just US$45.9bn was raised in the opening three months of 2009, a dramatic tumble from Q4 last year when US$125bn was collected.

The last time such an amount was raised was back in the last quarter of 2004, when 131 funds raising US$34bn. Just 71 funds managed to reach a close between the beginning of January and the end of March. The last time the number was this low was Q3 2003, when 67 funds made it across the finishing line.

The opening quarter of 2009 has also seen nine fund raisings abandoned – for the whole of 2008, there were 30, and in 2007 there were 14.

Charterhouse’s latest offering is approximately the same size as Charterhouse CCP VIII, a 2006 fund. CCP VIII was majority backed by pension funds (42%), with fund-of-funds (18%) and insurance companies (12%) making up the bulk of the remainder. Non-UK investors accounted for 82% of the €4bn raised.