PE fund briefs, week of Nov. 26, 2007

Hancock signs up $342M for fund IV

Hancock Capital Management recently held a $342 million first close on its latest mezzanine fund, Hancock Capital Partners IV, according to a source familiar with the firm. The fund is targeted at $500 million, the firm’s largest fund to date.

Ready to capitalize on the credit crunch, the firm plans to continue investing between $10 million to $50 million in established businesses looking for growth capital, capital for recapitalizations and financing for acquisitions. The firm also makes direct equity investments in companies and provides capital commitments to other buyout firms, preferably in co-investment opportunities, according to its website.

Hancock Capital is part of Boston-based MFC Global Investment Management, the asset management division of Manulife Financial, a Canadian financial services company. Stephen Blewitt, a senior managing director of Hancock Capital and John Hancock Life Insurance Co., leads Hancock’s mezzanine investment program. The firm has offices in New York and Boston.

The firm has been managing mezzanine funds since 1998, beginning with Hancock Mezzanine Partners, a $425 million fund that was fully invested by 2000.

Blue Point closes fund II

Cleveland-based Blue Point Capital Partners announced last week that it has raised $400 million for its second independent fund. Prior to 2000, Blue Point made buyout investments on behalf of KeyCorp, the Cleveland-based bank holding company, which continues to invest in the private equity firm as a limited partner.

In addition to KeyCorp, investors in the new fund include Alcoa, Credit Suisse, CUNA Insurance, F&C PLC, Firstar, Horizon21, Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System, School Employees Retirement System of Ohio and WestLB Mellon Asset Management, Managing Partner John Kirby says.

The mid-market buyout firm invests in companies valued between $25 million and $250 million in industrial, consumer product and service segments. The firm has already made seven investments from fund II.

GenNx360 maiden fund nears final close

GenNx360 Capital Partners, a startup buyout shop whose co-founders include two veterans of General Electric Corp., is at work raising a debut buyout fund with a hard cap of $600 million, a source familiar with the firm said.

By mid-February, the buyout shop had already racked up at least $150 million in commitments, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it may have by now secured as much as $500 million, according to a different source.

GenNx360 Capital acquires companies that provide business-to-business services that generate between $250 million and $1 billion in annual sales. Earlier this year, the firm teamed up with fellow LBO shops Knox Lawrence International and Oak Hill Capital Partners to buy Vertex Data Science Ltd., a Liverpool, England-based IT services provider. The deal was valued at about $448.6 million.

Ronald Blaylock, who founded and managed Blaylock and Co., a minority owned investment bank, co-founded GenNx 360 with two former GE executives, Arthur Harper and James Shepard. Harper had served as president and CEO of GE’s Equipment Services division, while Shepard had been president and CEO of GE’s Infrastructure Sensing business.

GenNx360 encourages volunteerism among its staff, and many of the firm’s principals serve on advisory boards for community centers, charitable foundations and health centers. This year, the firm has supported numerous organizations aimed at developing black leaders in business, arts and sciences, including Executive Leadership Council, One Hundred Black Men Inc. and The National Society of Black Engineers, according to its website.

The New York-based firm has offices in Cambridge, Mass., Seattle and India.

Signet Healthcare Launches first institutional fund

Signet Healthcare Partners, an expansion capital investor in pharmaceutical and health care businesses, has set out to raise money from institutional investors for the first time, targeting $200 million.

Signet Healthcare Partners Fund III, launched in late October, would be earmarked mainly for investments in small companies, both public and private, in the specialty pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical services and medical device sectors, according to a source familiar with the firm.

Signet Healthcare Partners takes both majority and minority stakes in companies.

The New York-based firm was founded in 1998 by James Gale, the former head of investment banking for Gruntal & Co., and is backed by Sanders Morris Harris Group, a Houston-based investment advisory firm. Sanders Morris Harris Group provided much of the capital for Signet Healthcare’s acquisitions to date. The firm’s sophomore fund, Life Sciences Opportunities Fund II, closed on $110 million.

The buyout shop has invested almost $134 million in 27 portfolio companies since its inception.

The firm’s portfolio includes Alpex Pharma, a Switzerland-based research and development outfit that manufactures “fast melt” and effervescent tablets; CyDex Inc., a Kansas-based developer of drug delivery technologies to treat asthma, depression, allergies, cancer, arrhythmia and other diseases; and Questcor Pharmaceuticals Inc., a California-based provider of prescription drugs for central nervous system disorders.

Wind Point to set sail on fund VII

Wind Point Partners will begin raising its seventh mid-market buyout fund in January with a $1 billion target, according to LBO Wire. The fund will have a $1.25 billion hard cap, and follows a $700 million sixth fund that the Southfield, Mich.-based firm closed in 2005.

American Capital opens site near Boston

American Capital Strategies (Nasdaq: ACAS) announced that it is opening an office in Framingham, Mass., to focus on tech investments, and will be led by existing Principal Miles Arone. He will be joined by new hire Patrick Gallagher, who previously was a vice president with Morgan Stanley Venture Partners. With the added investors, the firm’s tech group now consists of 10 investment professionals on the East and West coasts.

The Bethesda, Md.-based firm, a publicly traded private equity funds, raised about $585 million for its second buyouts fund earlier this year.