EQT opens in Warsaw

The Nordic buyout firm is joining the likes of IK Partners, Candover and Advent as it seeks to take a slice of the Central and Eastern European market. Piotr Czapski, a technology specialist, will lead the push.

EQT Partners has hired local telecoms veteran Piotr Czapski to head up a new office in Warsaw, Poland. The firm is establishing its presence in Poland in order to access deals and markets across all of Central and Eastern Europe.

Czapski, 43 years old, is the former head of management consultancy McKinsey & Co’s Eastern European business technology practice and a board member of Netia, a Polish telecoms giant.

Conni Jonsson

Despite Czapski's background, EQT's investments in CEE will not be biased towards telecoms and technology, following the same strategy as EQT's investments elsewhere in Europe.

EQT, whose latest fund EQT V closed in 2006 on €4.25 billion, has yet to make any investments in CEE, a fact it is looking to change with the opening of the Warsaw base.

“I am convinced that in a few years a meaningful part of EQT´s investments will come from Central and Eastern Europe,” said Conni Jonsson, managing partner of EQT, in a statement.

EQT’s buyout operations head, Thomas von Koch, added: “We will start by focusing on Poland but also cover the other countries in the region.”

Central and Eastern Europe is attracting increasing attention from private equity firms looking to take advantage of the region’s relatively strong growth rates.

EQT’s establishment of a physical presence in the region follows a similar move by UK-listed buyout house Candover, which in August unveiled its four-strong CEE team, led by former JPMorgan Partners European head Lindsay Stuart and staffed by three ex-bankers from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

IK Partners, another private equity firm with Nordic roots, made its first tentative step into the region with the €100 million acquisition of Polish manufacturing company Axtone. It has no physical presence in the region as yet.

Earlier this year a Mergermarket survey identified Poland as one of the two countries in the region expected to see the most private equity activity.

In April, Advent International closed its fourth Central and Eastern European fund on its hard cap of €1 billion. It has been in Warsaw since 1998.

EQT, which as well as investing in Europe and the US also has a China-focused fund, will use the Polish base to both source deals and aid the international expansion of portfolio companies. EQT us already in a number of discussions for CEE deals, which were initiated from the firm's existing Northern European offices.