European 21 Invest Launches Third-Party Funds –

The launch of the 21 Invest Industrial Fund marks 21 Invest’s foray into the conventional third-party fund market. The vehicle, which has a euros 275 million target, is focused on, but will not be restricted to, the Southern European markets, primarily Spain and Italy.

21 Invest is a joint venture between the Bonomi family and 21 Investimenti, the Italian private equity house headed by Alessandro Benetton and owned by Edizione Holding, Deutsche Bank Banca Intesa, Assicurazioni Generali and the Seragnoli family. Since its formation in 1994, 21 Invest has invested from its own and shareholder resources.

Andrea Bonomi, managing director of 21 Invest’s London operation, said there were a number of reasons the group opted to enter the third-party fund market.

“The rapid expansion of the mid-market in Southern Europe has coincided with a drift towards larger deals among former mid-market players,” he said. “And this has given us an opportunity to go for leadership in the region.”

The 21 Invest Industrial Fund will target industry-driven transactions – primarily buy-and-builds or deals arising out of cross-border consolidation. Bonomi said those types of deals are currently a major factor in the Southern European markets. Its principal focus will be on opportunities in the euros 75 million to euros 200 million value range.

One particular Spanish investment, in Grupo Picking Pack (GPP), typifies 21 Invest’s build-up style. On GPP’s behalf, 21 Invest initiated both the GBP46 million takeover of UDO Holdings – the first acquisition of a UK listed company by a Spanish Group – and the $106 million acquisition of Charette Corp. of the US.

Bonomi said the firm’s track record includes the completion of one full private equity cycle in the new fund’s primary target markets. Since 1994, 21 Invest has deployed around e120 million in Southern Europe and Bonomi said, to date, returns have been in the top quartile.

Placement agents Susan Lloyd Associates and David Kirby are handling marketing of the fund in Europe and the US respectively. Lloyd said that a first close on a minimum of euros 100 million, to comprise euros 50 million committed by the sponsors and at least as much again from external sources, is scheduled for this month. At the first close, the bulk of the capital is expected to be European in origin, simply because of the length of time it typically takes US investors to come to the table.

Most of the early interest in the fund has come from funds-of-funds, family-related investors and endowments, Lloyd said. 21 Invest’s ultimate objective is to build an investor base that is diversified both by geographic mix and investor type.