NY Pension Invests in No. Ireland

Normally, it would seem out of place for a state official, who manages a $120 billion pension fund, to travel overseas to announce an investment of less than $7 million in a foreign venture fund. But when the investment is a small step in helping a country overcome centuries-old animosities, political leaders will make exceptions.

Seizing on what he claims is an opportunity for helpful economic development and meaningful returns, New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi traveled to Belfast, Ireland, last week in part to announce that the New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF) was making its first investment in Northern Ireland. The CRF invested $6.88 million in Crescent Capital’s $40.6 million second fund, Crescent Capital II.

Hevesi, who has often supported Irish causes, has long championed efforts to curb sectarian discrimination in Northern Ireland. He says that the fund represents an opportunity for job creation “regardless of religious, political or any other affiliation.” He said that the investment climate in Northern Ireland has been more favorable lately due to the ongoing peace negotiations, and that the social benefits to the region would be matched by a “meaningful return” to New York’s pensioners.

The fund will be the largest local source of venture capital in Northern Ireland. Crescent’s managing director, Colin Walsh, said in a statement that Hevesi’s gesture was an important sign of confidence in the region, given the size of the fund Hevesi oversees and his commitment to the region.

CRF has made the third-largest commitment to the fund. The fund’s chief sponsor, Invest Northern Ireland, committed $13.6 million. Invest Northern Ireland is an economic development organization sponsored by the government of Northern Ireland. The European Investment Fund committed $11 million.

Other limited partners in the fund include Northern Ireland’s pension administrator NILGOSC, Queen’s University, University of Ulster and Ulster Bank.

Belfast-based Crescent Capital was founded in 1995 with a $20.5 million fund. The firm invests in manufacturing, service and IT companies in Northern Ireland and makes investments between about $500,000 and $1.4 million.

Crescent’s portfolio companies include Andor Technology, a Belfast-based provider of medical imaging products that went public late last year on the London Stock Exchange; Derry-based drug delivery system provider Gendel; and CRM software developer Lagan Technologies.

Email Matthew.Sheahan@thomson.com