PEI Awards 2015 EMEA: winning big

Among the winners in this region were CVC Capital Partners, which took two key awards, EQT, PGGM, Apax and Abraaj.

Pan-European firm CVC Capital Partners grabbed the Large-Cap Firm of the Year in Europe title for the third year running in Private Equity International’s 2015 Awards.

The firm, which had an astonishing year across the continent, beat healthy competition from Permira and Cinven, in second and third place.

Notable among CVC’s activity last year were two UK acquisitions from its $5 billion Strategic Opportunities Fund, motorway services operator Moto and roadside assistance provider the Royal Automobile Club. In Germany it hired well-known investment banker Alexander Debelius and poached its new Warsaw head from Polish veteran Innova Capital.

CVC’s standout acquisition of German perfume and cosmetics retailer Douglas Holdings from Advent International was one of the largest private equity-backed mergers and acquisitions transactions in the region at €2.8 billion, and grabbed the Deal of the Year in Europe Award.

The Netherlands' PGGM, no stranger to PEI’s awards, swooped the Limited Partner of the Year in Europe trophy for the second year running. Its chief investment officer of private markets Ruulke Bagijn was nominated as PEI’s Game Changer of the year due to her indomitable commitment to improving transparency and focus on “undesirable practices” that require reform.

The Mid-Market Firm of the Year in Europe title was nabbed by EQT, unseating last year’s winner PAI Partners, who came in at second place. Among its achievements, EQT raced to a final close in August for its seventh flagship vehicle on its €6.75 billion hard-cap. The firm also took the top spot as Firm of the Year in the Nordics.

However Paris-based PAI was not without top honours, voted by the industry as Firm of the Year in France and Firm of the Year in Switzerland.

PEI’s winner for Exit of the Year in Europe was King Digital Entertainment, the maker of games such as Candy Crush Saga. Apax Partners sold its remaining 45 percent stake in the New York-listed company in November to the US’ Activision Blizzard. Apax’ entire proceeds, including an earlier partial sale, netted the firm a cool €2.7 billion, racking up an outlandish gross money on invested capital of 93x on its original €29 billion investment and an internal rate of return of 55 percent.

Continuing with two spectacular exits in Italy of Banca Farmafactoring to Centrebridge Partners, and Rhiag-Inter Auto Parts Italia to LKQ Corporation, Apax was also crowned Firm of the Year in Italy.

Among PEI’s other country-specific awards, this year PEI rolled its central and eastern Europe (CEE) and Russian categories into one, with the title for Firm of the Year awarded to Mid Europa Partners. The firm is a familiar face, winning the CEE title for the three previous years.

In the Middle East, The Abraaj Group was awarded Firm of the Year in MENA – a title it last won in 2012 – thanks to an impressive fund close for its second North Africa vehicle on $375 million, exceeding its $250 million target, and a string of acquisitions, including joining with TPG to invest in Saudi Arabian fast food chain Kudu.

Abraaj, which was also active in sub-Saharan Africa, came in second in the Firm of the Year in Africa category, behind Helios Investment Partners, which took top honours in part thanks to its close on $1.1 billion of the largest Africa-dedicated fund ever. Actis, the winner in this category for the previous three years, came third.

Fund of Funds Manager of the Year in Europe was won by HarbourVest, reflecting the arrival of its listed vehicle on the main board of the London Stock Exchange, thereby expanding access to a wider pool of investors, as well as its growing European team based in its new London offices, and its ongoing commitment to investing in European assets.

In secondaries, Ardian remained a force to be reckoned with, grabbing the Secondaries Firm of the Year in Europe title for the second year in a row, with Lexington Partners and Strategic Partners in second and third place.

Intermediate Capital Group took Lender of the Year, Sun European Partners knocked Endless off its perch to take Special Situations/Turnaround Firm of the Year, while Distressed Debt Firm of the Year was won by Oaktree.

Plaudits go to Campbell Lutyens as Placement Agent of the Year in Europe, and King & Wood Mallesons, which won both transaction and fund formation categories as Law Firm of the Year in Europe.

Click HERE to read our full coverage, which details which fund managers, investors, advisors and transactions; click HERE to read the list of Americas winners; clickHERE to read the list of winners in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and HERE to view all winners in Asia.