Carlyle venture arm exits semiconductor business(3)

After two years of ownership, Carlyle’s European venture arm is selling French scientific equipment maker CAMECA to US trade player AMETEK for more than €80 million. The fund, which was launched with great fanfare in 1999 to target internet investments, was forced to broaden its remit after the dotcom crash.

The Carlyle Group’s European venture capital arm has sold CAMECA, a French scientific equipment company, to US-listed electronics business AMETEK for €82 million ($112 million).

CAMECA makes probes, semiconductors and nanotechnology applications that are used by organisations for scientific research and analysis purposes. End-users include NASA, who employ the company’s products to study extra-terrestrial “stardust” particles, academic institutions like MIT and Oxford University and corporates like IBM and Samsung. The company is based near Paris, but has subsidiaries in the US, UK, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Carlyle Europe Venture Partners bought the business in April 2005, from a consortium that included UK buyout firm Barclays Private Equity and French group Perfectis Private Equity. Since then the buyout firm has been helping the company expand internationally, both organically and through the acquisition of German ion probe manufacturer Atomika in July 2005.

CAMECA’s president and chief executive officer Georges Antier paid tribute to Carlyle’s sector expertise – this is one of several investments it has made in the semiconductor area. “Their expertise in the semiconductor industry and financial support has enabled us to expand substantially our Asian presence and to grow our revenues by over 60 percent,” he said.

AMETEK’s international presence would now help the company to extend its global reach, he added. CAMECA will be subsumed into AMETEK’s electronic instruments group, which makes instruments for the science, aerospace and industrial markets, and had sales of more than $1 billion last year.

It is not the first time AMETEK has bought a private equity backed business. In 2003 it bought aerospace firm Airtechnology Holdings from European buyout firm Candover.

The Carlyle venture arm began life as Carlyle Internet Partners Europe, closing a €553 million fund in 2000 at the height of the dotcom boom. When the bubble burst, the firm sought to distance the fund from its internet roots, renaming it as Carlyle Europe Venture Partners. Jean-Bernard Tellio, who had been recruited from Groupe Arnault in France to run the fund, left the firm in late 2000, to be replaced by managing director Jacques Garaíalde.