Quest for Growth Targets New Markets Prospects

Quest Management, a joint venture between Quartz Capital Partners, Capricorn Venture Partners and its managers Johny Neven and Philippe Haspelagh, raised BFr2.707 billion (ecu 66.6 million) for Quest for Growth, a “Pricaf” that listed in September on the Brussels stock exchange.

Pricafs – the name is an abbreviation of Sicaf (Societe d’investissement a capital fixe) Private Equity – are a new type of fund introduced by the Belgian government and modelled loosely on the UK Venture Capital Trust (VCT) template.

Like VCTs, Pricafs offer tax benefits to private investors – Belgian citizens pay no capital gains tax on profits from Pricaf investment – and are designed to stimulate investment in growth companies.

Quest (Quality Entrepreneurial Stocks) for Growth raised BFr 707 million through a private placing before its September IPO, which raised a further BFr 2 billion. The fund is split roughly 50/50 between institutional and retail investors.

Quest for Growth will target high-growth companies throughout Europe operating in the medical and healthcare, biotechology, IT, software, electronics and new materials sectors. Although strongly focused on technology sectors, the fund may also invest in opportunities that emerge in other high-growth market areas.

Quest for Growth aims to build a portfolio of EASDAQ, Euro.NM and NASDAQ candidates, and will thus benefit from the pedigrees of Capricorn Ventures, whose founder Jos Peeters is vice president and co-founder of EASDAQ, and Quartz Capital Partners, which is a major market maker in stocks on the new European markets.

Despite its “Private Equity” tag, as much as 65% of Quest for Growth’s portfolio may be held in quoted investments; for its unquoted investments, the fund will target companies that plan to go public within 18 months. The fund, which will take only minority stakes, is not precluded from investing in unquoted companies at an earlier stage of development, but such deals will form only a small component of its portfolio. A maximum of 15% of the fund is available for investment in other venture and private equity funds with similar investment strategies to Quest for Growth.

Quest Management is headed by President Philippe Haspelagh, who is a professor at INSEAD, and a former deputy of the Belgian Ministry of Agriculture and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. Managing director Johny Neven is a former director of the Belgian stock exchange and worked with Jos Peeters in the Ministry of Finance working party that devised the Pricaf legislation. Both Jos Peeters and Hubert Velge, the co-founder and CEO of Quartz Capital Partners, are directors of Quest Management.