Deal round-up 10/11/03

Atlas, Pond lead UK software second round; AMJPE backs Scottish furnishings business; SMAC leads SVOX second round; Catella buys Babcock unit; NBGI takes Wraith stake; Existing investors back Elata

Atlas, Pond lead UK software second round


Pond Venture Partners and Atlas Venture have joined an undisclosed backer in providing $17m of financing for picoChip Designs, a developer of wireless solutions based in Bath, England. The round follows the initial funding received in 2001, bringing the total investment in picoChip to $24m. “Success of this round gives picoChip a solid financial foundation that will enable us to continue to strengthen our position, further support our customers and drive products to profitability,” said Rodger Sykes, president and CEO of picoChip.


AMJPE backs Scottish furnishings business


Aberdeen Murray Johnstone Private Equity (AMJPE) has invested £1.25m in Texstyle World Home, an East Kilbride, Scotland, based company operating in the home furnishings retail sector. The investment is intended to fund expansion including further acquisitions.


The company said it would use the financing to acquire clusters of stores in Scotland, Ireland and possibly the North of England. The deal was led by Bill Nixon and Stuart Overend, at AMJPE’s Glasgow office. “In due course we will start to look at suitable acquisitions, probably outwith Scotland, although we may open a few more units north of the border,” commented Nixon.


AMJPE typically invests between £500,000 and £15m in small and medium-sized companies in the UK, up to a market capitalisation of £50m. AMJPE has funds under management of £455m.


SMAC leads SVOX second round


Siemens Mobile Acceleration (smac), the mobile technology investment unit of the German electronics group, has provided an undisclosed sum of second round financing for SVOX, a Zurich-based text-to-speech technology developer.


SVOX AG was founded in April 2000 as a spin-off of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich). Its core product is text-to-speech software. SVOX works with partners including Harman-Becker, VoiceGenie, Telisma, Siemens, Code-Factory, Asahi-KASEI and ART.


“SVOX is an attractive investment. Most importantly, SVOX is the premier vendor for text-to-speech, meeting the mobile device and automotive industry’s demands. The company also fits perfectly into our mission of serving as strategic partner, developing early-stage companies in every business aspect,” said Dietrich Ulmer, CEO and president of Siemens Mobile Acceleration.


Catella buys Babcock unit


Support services company Babcock International Group has sold its materials handling business to Swedish company Catella Private Equity for about £1.7m. The price is subject to adjustment dependent on the value of net assets transferred as at completion, which is expected to take place on November 30. BMH Marine is Babcock's Swedish subsidiary specialising in the supply of ship-unloading equipment. At the end of March, BMH had net assets of £2.1m.


NBGI takes Wraith stake


NBGI Private Equity, the UK mid-market investor sponsored by the National Bank of Greece, has arranged an investment of £2.8m to fund Wraith Accommodation, a portable accommodation business chaired by David Wraith. The company secured private equity investment after having to abort an attempted AIM flotation in the face of continuingly difficult conditions in the capital markets.


Wraith Accommodation specialises in the hire and sale of quality portable accommodation units since it was established in 1997. The company generates annual sales of around £11m from four regional fleet depots at Torksey in Lincolnshire, Tamworth, Southampton and Rainham.


Richard Morley and Peter Watt led the investment for the NBGI Private Equity fund, which has taken a 36 per cent equity stake as well as receiving preference shares in the company.


Existing investors back Elata


Elata, a UK provider of wireless service delivery software has closed a financing round of E3.0m (US$3.4m) from its existing investors, comprising Royal Bank of Scotland Equity Finance, nCoTec Ventures, Hugh Symons Group and NewMedia Spark. The company has also announced the appointment of Stephen Dunford as CEO. Elata previously secured E10m in September 2001 and will use the follow-on funding round to concentrate on commercial expansion and continued product development.