Private Equity: Bridgepoint Capital arrives with Protocol

NatWest Equity Partners has undone the final tie with its one-time parent company NatWest Bank by announcing a change of name to Bridgepoint Capital in late May. NatWest Equity Partners’ future as an independent looked assured with the arrival of hostile bids for NatWest Bank by Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland which were played out over much of last year, with Royal Bank of Scotland finally emerging the victor.

In defence of the two bids NatWest Bank promised to divest itself of NatWest Equity Partners as well as its holdings in Gartmore plc, Greenwich NatWest and Ulster Bank. With the NatWest sale a done deal and the bank’s own private equity holdings up for sale in the secondary market, Bridgepoint Capital (nee NatWest Equity Partners) has announced its first investment as an independent.

Bridgepoint Capital has bought a 100 per cent of Protocol Associates for a sum understood to be in the region of GBP40 million (EURO65 million), although no details are forthcoming on the levels of debt/equity participation. Protocol, founded by Geoff Lennox and Richard Fielding, develops and provides database and management information software products and services for the further education market.

NatWest Equity Partners focused in large part on mid market buyout opportunities in western Europe with an average investment of GBP12 million. Bridgepoint Capital chief executive David Shaw has gone on record saying: “Although the focus of our business remains unchanged, independence will allow us to build value in our business more effectively as well as giving us greater freedom to respond to the needs of the market, investors and staff. We also expect to begin raising our next fund in the course of the summer.” NatWest Equity Partners had been investing third-party funds as well as directly from its parent’s balance sheet since 1996.