PE Week Wire: Thursday, August 7, 2008

No time for a column today, as I need to catch a flight down to New York for some meetings. Plus, I just discovered that my Blackberry is fried, and I’m devastated by how devastated I am. But since I hate leaving you with nothing scoopy…

The Blackstone Group this morning announced that it has formed a cleantech practice group, which will make investments and assist existing portfolio companies with renewable energy strategies. What it didn’t announce, however, is that the group’s investments will be made out of a dedicated cleantech fund that is in the process of being raised.

What’s particularly interesting here is that the fund is going to look at lot more like venture capital than anything else Blackstone has done. For guidance, you can just look at the team it poached from AllianceBernstein. Group leader James Kiggen, for example, is known for growth- and later-stage VC deals like A123 Systems and Powerspan. In other words, average investments of between $30 million and $50 million. That’s not tiny, but it’s also not BX-big.

Top Three

Intelligent Beauty Inc., an El Segundo, Calif.-based provider of ecommerce technology and online marketing, has raised $30.5 million in Series B funding from Technology Crossover Ventures. This brings the firm’s total commitment up to around $43 million, in exchange for a minority ownership stake.

Montagu Private Equity has retained Morgan Stanley to explore strategic options for German bandage maker BSN Medical, which Montagu acquired for €1.03 billion in 2005. A sale of BSN Medical would be expected to garner up to €1.7 billion.

Greg Share has joined Moelis & Co. to help the I-bank expand its buyouts practice. He previously was with Fortress Investment Group as a managing director of private equity. He also has worked at both Madison Dearborn Capital Partners and Lazard Freres & Co.

VC Deals

EsbaTech AG, a Swiss developer of antibody fragment therapeutics, has raised CHF 23 million ($22m) in Series B funding. Return backers include SV Life Sciences, Clarus Ventures, HBM BioVentures, HBM BioCapital, Novartis Bioventures, BioMedinvest and VI Partners.

NextFoods, a Boulder, Colo.-based maker of GoodBelly probiotic fruit drinks, has raised $16 million in VC funding led by Maveron LLC.

SliceX, a San Jose, Calif.-based developer of low-power analog and mixed-signal chips, has raised $15 million in Series B funding. Crosslink Capital led the round, and was joined by return backers BlueRun Ventures and Global Catalyst Partners. The company previously raised a $10 million Series A round in 2006.

Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Watertown, Mass.-based developer of synthetic chemistry technology for drug discovery and development, has closed the $15 million second tranche of its $25 million Series A round. The initial close came in 2006. Backers included Mediphase Venture Partners, CMEA Ventures, Fidelity Biosciences, Flagship Ventures and Skyline Ventures.

TokBox, a San Francisco-based provider of Web-based video communication services, has raised $10 million in Series B funding. Bain Capital Ventures led the round, and was joined by return backer Sequoia Capital. It had previously raised $4 million.

FolioDynamix, a New York-based provider of software for the wealth management market, has raised $7.5 million from Edison Venture Fund.

SaftPay, a Miami Beach-based global payment system for online transactions, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from Espírito Santo Ventures, a unit of Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo.

Five Star Painting, a Springville, Utah-based provider of call-center support for residential and commercial painting franchisees, has raised $300,000 from InnoVentures Capital Partners.

Buyout Deals

Cirque du Soleil has sold a 20% ownership stake to a pair of Dubai government-owned investment firms. No financial terms were disclosed.

MBF Healthcare Acquisition Corp. (AMEX: MBH) said that it has cut the enterprise value of Critical Homecare Solutions Holdings Inc. from $534 million to $479 million. MBF had agreed to acquire Critical Homecare back in February from Kohlberg & Co. with the $534 million figure, but opted to restructure after a financing commitment letter from Jefferies Finance expired on July 31. MBF has not yet announced a new financing agreement.

Swander Pace Capital has acquired Lavo, a Canadian manufacturer of eco-friendly laundry detergent and household spray cleaners. The company also makes bleach and industrial plastic bottles. No financial terms were disclosed.

PE Exits

Castle Harlan has completed its $288 million sale of AmeriCast Technologies Inc., an Atchison, Kansas-based maker of complex steel castings, to Australia-based Bradken Ltd. (ASX: BKN). Castle Harlan bought AmeriCast in late 2006 from KPS Special Situations Fund for $110 million. That deal also saw Bradken – a onetime portfolio company of Castle Harlan Australian affiliate Champ — acquire a 19% equity interest in AmeriCast.

PE-Backed M&A

LLR Partners has committed an undisclosed amount of private equity funding to healthcare analytics company Surveillance Data LLC, in support of that company’s acquisition of Verispan LLC.

NDS Surgical Imaging, a San Jose, Calif.-based portfolio company of Riverside Partners, has acquired the medical display division (Dome Imaging) of Planar Systems (Nasdaq: PLNR). No financial terms were disclosed.

Stiefel Laboratories Inc., a Coral Gables, Fla.-based skincare pharmaceutical company, has completed its acquisition of Barrier Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: BTRX), for approximately $148 million. Last year, The Blackstone Group invested $500 million into Stiefel in exchange for a minority ownership position.

Firms & Funds

The Blackstone Group has formed a cleantech group, which will make investments and advise Blackstone portfolio companies on renewable energy strategies. It will be led by James Kiggen, a new senior managing director who previously was with AllianceBernstein. Also joining as principals from AllianceBernstein are Walter Vester and Richard Troyer.

Woodbridge Group Inc., a middle-market M&A advisory, has opened its first West Coast office. It will be based near Sacramento, and will be managed by Ney Grant.

Human Resources

Jim Pallotta reportedly is leaving hedge fund manager Tudor Investment Corp. to form his own firm in 2009. His $5 billion Raptor fund will be spun off for the new firm, which may expand into private equity.

Maranon Capital has made several new hires: Rich Jander as a principal, Michael Fineman, Rommel Garcia and Ashish Shah as associates and Angelica Mariscal as a marketing associate.