Irish Eyes Smile For Private Equity –

Ireland has given the world more than its proportionate share of poets and playwrights, and now the Emerald Isle is gearing up to give private equity funding to firms in Europe and the United States. The government of Ireland has already made $217 million in private equity fund commitments and plans to invest up to $2.4 billion in private equity by 2009.

The Republic of Ireland’s National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF) says it will invest directly in private equity funds serving Europe and North America. The NPRF will seek to divide its investments equally between Europe and North America and will favor buyouts assets.

The pension fund manages approximately $18.4 billion in assets. The NPRF has a goal of having 8% of its assets invested in private equity by 2009, when it projects its assets will reach approximately $30 billion. Over the past year the fund earned a 19% return on its investments, due largely to international public market improvements, and grew by a record $4.3 billion.

The fund decided to diversify its holdings in 2004. Last summer the NPRF recruited Ronan Cunningham, a former partner in Adams Street Partners’ London office, to head its private equity group.

So far the pension fund has committed more than $217 million to invest in three buyout funds. The NPRF agreed to invest $91million in New York-based Clayton Dubilier & Rice’s $1.4 billion buyout fund, Clayton Dubilier & Rice Fund II. It committed $91 million to London’s CVC Capital Partners for the $7.2 billion CVC European Equity Partners Fund IV. And it committed $35 million for Vestar Capital Partners Fund V, managed by New York-based Vestar Capital Partners.

The NPRF was founded in 2001 by the National Treasury Management Agency to insure future state pensions. It will begin paying benefits to Ireland’s pensioners in 2025.