EQT Partners has appointed former IK Investment Partners executive Kristiaan Nieuwenburg as regional head for the Benelux region.
His appointment comes as EQT plans to establish “a significant local presence” in the region, according to a statement. EQT has had an office in Amsterdam for 20 years, handling fund administration and support activities and will now set up an investment team as well.
EQT has built up a leading position in Scandinavia and in the past 10 years also in Germany. The firm wants to expand further, Nieuwenburg told Private Equity International, and the Benelux is “a very logical addition to those countries”, he said. “Holland and Belgium are like the Scandinavian countries, small, outward looking countries, [with] international orientation,” he said.
Companies in the Benelux also have certain similarities with Scandinavian businesses, he said. “They often reach a certain size and get an international outlook because the [domestic] market is smaller, so from that perspective it’s similar. It also means that many companies don’t only have exposure just to the European market but more international exposure, particularly large companies, which is where EQT will be looking,” he said.
Despite ongoing problems in the Eurozone, EQT thinks the Benelux has good deal flow potential. “Within Europe, from a buyout perspective, the Benelux area is still somewhat more attractive than some other parts of Europe. And compared to other countries, the political and economic situation is relatively stable,” Nieuwenburg added.
The Dutch banking sector however is still experiencing some problems. Last month, the Dutch government nationalised SNS Reaal, a Dutch bank and insurer, indicating access to senior financing is not as widely available as during the credit bubble years. But EQT won’t be solely depending on the Dutch banking market, Nieuwenburg said. “Obviously I would be looking to develop my relationships further with Dutch banks, which always have been good. [Access to bank lending] is not the same as a few years ago, but it’s getting easier to attract funding for those markets,” he said.
Nieuwenburg recently worked at Dutch e-commerce firm RFS Holland Holding, where he was chief financial officer. From 1999 to 2011 he worked at IK Investment Partners, a European private equity firm. In his last seven years at IK, Nieuwenburg was head of the Benelux team, where he led the divestment of Magotteaux in 2011 for example.
Nieuwenburg joined EQT on 1 March 2013 and will initially be working from the firm’s London office, before moving to the Amsterdam office. “I will recruit a handful of investment professionals to cover the markets. EQT has done that in other markets as well; build up a team, in line with the market potential and also as the portfolio develops,” he said.
EQT, which is currently investing its EQT VI, has a mandate to invest in the Benelux, Nieuwenburg said. The firm has made three investments in the region: Springer Science+Business Media, Koole Tanktransport and Argos Terminals.