Winner: Bridgepoint Capital
Highly commended: 3i
Highly commended: Alchemy Partners
Bridgepoint Capital wins evcj’s 2000 Mid-market private equity house of the year award. Bridgepoint Capital, renamed from NatWest Equity Partners in May last year, has had an impressive year. It orchestrated its own management buyout from NatWest when that bank was bought by The Royal Bank of Scotland earlier in the year and it signed a portfolio management contract for the private equity assets of NatWest, which its acquirer chose to sell into the secondary market. A rash of realisations from that portfolio sale has followed and has seen secondary player Coller Capital, which bought part of that circa $1 billion portfolio last year, already return some 30 per cent of its fund to investors.
On the monies going in side Bridgepoint Capital supported a number of its portfolio companies in buy and build strategies – these included Longeville Group, Really Useful Group and Protocol. Buyout investments were spread throughout Europe and include European Homes (France), Auralight (Sweden), Management 2000 (Germany), Industria Italiana Informatica (Italy) and the secondary buyout of Golden Wonder (UK).
3i, winner of evcj’s Mid-market private equity house of the year in 1999, in 2000 comes in as highly commended. 3i’s investment and exit patterns in 2000 continued to be upbeat. But perhaps where it took most attention was in its own expansion across continental Europe. This started with the acquisition of Germany’s oldest technology venture capital investor Technologieholding in February. In May, 3i went on to buy the Finnish venture capital firm SFK Finance. In September it acquired the remaining 80 per cent in Bank Austria TFV High Tech-Unternehmens that it did not already own. With the offer for the major part of Atle, a leading quoted Swedish private equity investor in February this year 3i is fast becoming the European venture capital house while at the same time participating across the mid market and mega buyout deal spectrum.
Highly commended is also Alchemy Partners. Alchemy Partners had a notable year, again keeping the UK public to private market busy from which three of its five management buyouts originated. These were of Industrial Control Services Group, Sanderson and Wardle Storeys. And on the gains realised side, Alchemy achieved a multiple of twelve and a half times on its 1997 acquisition of AG Stanley. In September 2000 Alchemy exited its investment in Fiber Optic Connection in which it had acquired a 49 per cent stake in April of that year. The investment was sold to DB Investor “for a satisfactory multiple of cost”. Also in September Alchemy sold Instem Computer Systems, which was the largest division of the Instem Group, which Alchemy took private (it was listed on the London Stock Exchange) in October 1997. This sale and a return of capital and dividend the previous year brings Alchemy’s cumulative IRR on the Instem Group invested to 60 per cent. Alchemy still holds a significant interest in the remaining two divisions of Instem Group. And in March Alchemy again sold an interest to DB Investor. This time it was in SMATcom AG, a holding company established by Alchemy to acquire cable TV operating companies in Germany.