peHUB Wire: Thursday, February 12, 2009

When we passed the 50k subscriber mark last week, I mentioned that we had decided to change the name of these morning missives to the peHUB Wire. As you can probably tell by the above logo (turn on HTML, if it’s off), the change became effective this morning.

On the one hand, this is largely cosmetic. The email’s format and content will remain the same, including my commentary up top and the news items down below. We’re also retaining the same “send from” address, so as not to taunt your corporate spam filters.

On the other hand, the change is reflective of how these emails have become progressively integrated with, the sister website we launched two years ago. Not only do most news items now link back to more detailed information on the site, but most of my columns also appear on the site, in order to provide readers with a forum to submit feedback and converse with one another. Moreover, both myself and this space’s permanent pinch-hitter – Erin Griffith – are regular peHUB bloggers.

I’m fully aware that it can be folly to drop a successful brand-name, but confusion between this publication, peHUB and PE Week (a weekly print newsletter) had become a bit cumbersome. Hopefully this helps clear things up. Moving on…

*** I’m beginning to get the sense that PE is going to take major advantage of Geither’s public/private partnership idea, but not necessarily in the way that the Timmy thinks. Rather than buying up toxic assets in partnership with Treasury, many PE firms are instead hoping to invest in the financial institutions from which the toxicity was removed. Many of these banks are now legitimately mid-cap businesses, and PE firms are hoping to get Indymac-like guarantees…

*** Quiz Time: What U.S.-based venture capital firm just lost a partner in its Israel office?

*** Email of the Day comes from Doug: “The question I’ve wondered about is why aren’t PE firms starting de novo banks with their equity like they do in times of distress in the insurance market? Deposits are easy enough to purchase and can be levered quite high (even today under FDIC guidelines), loans can be purchased in the market and returns should be great. This happens with the PE firms coming into in the regulated insurance market after most of the large disasters. I have been told by a few that the problem rests with the FDIC that isn’t interested in chartering more banks.”

*** Where in the World: I’m heading back out to Beaver Creek from March 3-5, for the VC in the Rockies winter conference. And this time I’ll be doing more than playing poker and hitting the slopes (although I plan to do both). Specifically, I’ll be part of a media panel being moderated by Brad Feld of Foundry Group. Get more info here.

Top Three

The Carlyle Group has ended its search for an investor to share part of its investment in Japanese mobile phone operator Willcom. Carlyle last year hired Merrill Lynch to find an investor that would help fund Willcom’s $2.2 billion to develop faster data transmission technology. Willcom now plans to use a rival carrier’s network.

Pliant Corp., a Schaumberg, Ill.-based maker of plastic shrinkwrap for packaging, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company had previously entered bankruptcy protection in January 2006, but emerged in July of that same year. It had been acquired in 2000 by what is now CCMP Capital Partners, which retained a significant position following the 2006 restructuring.

Brian Ruder and Bruce Chizen have joined Permira as a partner and senior advisor, respectively. Ruder previously was with Francisco Partners, while Chizen is the former CEO of Adobe Systems. In related news, Permira announced that Richard Sanders will relocate from London to Menlo Park, in order to lead the firm’s tech investing team.

VC Deals

Outbrain, an online content aggregator, has raised $12 million in Series B funding. Rhodium Ventures and Zohar Gilon (partner with Tamar Technologies Ventures) were joined by return backers Gemini Israel Funds, GlenRock Israel and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company previously raised around $6 million.

OPX Biotechnologies Inc., a Boulder, Colo.-based company focused on improving the viability and cost-effectiveness of biofuels and biorefined chemicals, has secured around $12.1 million of a $17.5 million third round of VC funding, according to a regulatory filing. Braemar Energy Ventures is being joined by return backers Mohr Davidow Ventures and X/Seed Capital.

Divergence Inc., a St. Louis-based biotech focused on genomics and informatics related to agriculture and infectious disease, has raised $11.8 million in third-round funding. MidPoint Food and Ag Fund LP led the round, and was joined by Prolog Ventures.

ChapDrive AS, a Norway-based developer of hydraulic transmissions for wind turbines, has raised NOK 52 million ($7.56m) in new VC funding. StatoilHydro and Innovation Norway (via grants) were joined by return backers NorthZone Ventures, Hafslund Venture and Energy Capital Management.!

Buyout Deals

Alta Communications and Mustang Group have acquired Mr. Youth, a New York–based social marketing agency. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal, which was facilitated by AdMedia Partners.

OMERS said that it has earmarked between C$500 million and C$600 million for control acquisition opportunities in Western Canada’s oil and gas industry.

Roundbox Advisors and Freestyle Park International have offered to buy bankrupt South Carolina amusement park Hard Rock Park for $25 million.

PE Exits

Creganna has acquired Micromuscle AB, a Sweden-based developer of electro-active polymers (EAP) technology for vascular applications. No financial terms were disclosed. In 2006, DSM Venturing, the corporate VC arm of Royal DSM NV, acquired a 10% stake in Micromuscle.

Emphasys Medical Inc., a Redwood City, Calif.-based medical device company focused on emphysema, has retained Gerbsman Partners to find a strategic buyer, according to VentureWire. The company canceled an IPO last spring, and before that had raised around $80 million in VC funding. Shareholders include Advanced Technology Ventures (17.8%), Morgenthaler Ventures (13.8%), St. Paul Venture Capital (11.5%) OrbiMed Advisors (13.7%), ABS Ventures (10%), Morgan Stanley Venture Partners (7.4%), Cargill Ventures (6.1%) and Neww Enterprise Associates. www.e!

Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) has acquired Ciclon Semiconductor Device Corp., a Bethlehem, Pa.-based developer of high-frequency power semiconductor solutions. No financial terms were disclosed. Ciclon had raised $24 million over two rounds of VC funding, from Guggenheim Venture Partners, TL Ventures and Venrock.

PE-Backed M&A

Box-Board Products Inc., a portfolio company of Trivest Partners, has acquired B&N Containers Inc., a maker of custom corrugated boxes for the Southern Virginia region. No financial terms were disclosed.

Firms & Funds

Bain Capital Ventures has held a $475 million first close on its fourth fund, according to VentureWire. A final close on between $500 million and $550 million in expected within the next six months.

Frontenac Co. has quietly closed its ninth fund with $315 million in capital commitments. The Chicago-based firm focuses on mid-market buyouts.

Third Wave Acquisition Corp. has withdrawn registration for a $350 million IPO. The Greenwich, Conn.-based blank-check acquisition company was to be run by Barry Sternlicht, chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group.

Human Resources

Jacques Rossignol and Xavier Payet have joined French buyout firm 21 Centrale Partners as a partner and investment manager, respectively. Rossignol previously was with Finama Private Equity/Acto capital, while Payet worked in the French Treasury Department, as a manager of state holdings in energy companies.

Sigma Partners has promoted Paul Flanagan to managing director. He joined the firm two years ago as an executive-in-residence, and later transitioned into a venture partner role. Before that, he was an executive vice president and CFO of VistaPrint.

Shonaid Jemmet-Page has been named chief operating officer of CDC Group, a UK government-backed fund-of-funds for private equity funds in emerging markets. She previously was senior VP of finance and information for Unilever.