Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) hit the European headlines during the summer with two high profile transactions – the GBP851 million (ecu 1.2 billion) public-to-private buyout of insurance group Willis Corroon and the DM3 billion (ecu 1.5 billion) acquisition of the Herberts paints and coatings business from Hoechst. (The sale agreement for Herberts is currently being renegotiated as a consequence of the drought in the high-yield bond market.) The two summer deals were the first concrete expression of the major push into Europe that observers believed KKR had been planning for some time. Rumours are now circulating that the group in the near future intends to launch a dedicated European buyout fund with a target of around $2 billion (ecu 1.7 billion).
KKR, as is its policy, declined to comment on this “speculation”. Recent approaches the US house has made to several high-ranking European private equity professionals, however, suggest that the European market currently features high on KKR’s list of priorities and could imply that it is indeed contemplating the establishment of a separate European capital pool.