PEI Awards 2018: EMEA winners

Firms, deals, fundraises and country-specific awards for Europe, the Middle East and Africa

European spending hit €79 billion last year – the highest annual total since 2007. The UK however was knocked from its perch as Europe’s largest market by the Netherlands.

EMEA’s winners included several firms that launched new strategies, with an expansion into large-caps, a debut mid-market fund and a dedicated artificial intelligence fund launch. Firms in the region were also rewarded for some healthy closes against a global decline in fundraising.

Large-cap firm of the year in Europe
  1. EQT
  2. Nordic Capital
  3. Partners Group

What are the defining characteristics of a modern-day private equity heavyweight? Arguably they are fundraising success driven by investment performance; diverse offerings across asset classes and strategies; a wholehearted embrace of technology and a willingness to keep evolving. EQT can boast them all.

The firm – which capped off the year by effecting a succession plan that saw Thomas von Koch hand over the reigns – started it with massive fund close: the €10.75 billion EQT VIII.

Besides the business as usual (some jumbo investments and exits including selling its stake in Sportradar (EV of €2.1 billion) and buying Belgium-based chemical group Azelis), the firm also got into public equities via its EQT Public Value business.

Mid-market firm of the year in Europe
  1. Equistone Partners Europe
  2. Triton Partners
  3. Oakley Capital

What do you get when you provide access to lower mid-market private equity investments in a fund size that can accommodate big investor cheques? Answer: a lot of capital. Equistone Partners Europe closed its sixth flagship fund in March 2018 on €2.8 billion, scaling back €1 billion of demand. The firm, which invests in France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, made eight investments in 2018 and generated €1.3 billion in exit proceeds. It bolstered its ranks with hires from Goldman Sachs and MML Capital.

Limited partner of the year in Europe
  1. Stonehage Fleming
  2. Finnish Local Government Pensions Institution (Keva)
  3. Ilmarinen

In a world in which family office money is becoming hard for GPs to ignore, Stonehage Fleming is an increasingly important player. EMEA’s largest manager of wealthy families’ money continued to evolve in 2018 forming partnerships with Philadelphia-based Glenmede, which advises on $40 billion for more than 2,000 families, and Luxembourg-headquartered Lombard International Assurance to allow its clients to access Lombard’s insurance plans. A deal to sell part of itself to Caledonia Investments, a £2 billion ($2.6 billion; €2.3 billion) investment trust with a strong family office heritage itself, is hoped to propel its global ambitions further. It’s PE business, led by head of private capital Richard Clarke-Jervoise, continues to grow.

Deal of the year in Europe
  1. Carlyle Group and GIC for AkzoNobel (speciality chemicals arm)
  2. CVC Capital Partners, Public Sector Pension Investment Board and StepStone for Recordati
  3. Partners Group for Techem

In 2018 Carlyle wrote its largest-ever equity cheque to acquire AkzoNobel’s specialty chemicals business for €10.1 billion. Like many buyout firms, Carlyle loves carve-outs and knows the specialty chemicals carve-out routine better than most. This business – now renamed Nouryon – makes a vast array of products for everything from face cream to feed additives and had been on Carlyle’s radar since 2013. The firm teamed up with Singaporean sovereign wealth giant GIC, mounted a huge due diligence effort across its global platform and won the deal. Capital for the transaction came from the $18.5 billion Carlyle Partners VII, the €3.75 billion Carlyle Europe Partners IV, GIC and some other unnamed co-investors.

Exit of the year in Europe
  1. 3i Group for Scandlines
  2. HIG Capital for FNZ
  3. Partners Group for VAT Group

London-listed 3i generated 7x its money on the sale of ferry operator Scandlines. Acquired by First State Investments and Hermes Investment Management, two long-term infrastructure investors, for an enterprise value of €2.5 billion, the company was transformed during 3i’s ownership from a state-owned business to a best-in-class operator. The exit marked the culmination of an operational overhaul, including streamlining the business by selling the non-core routes and assets and focusing the business on two routes linking Germany and Denmark. Initial capital came from 3i’s fifth buyout fund, its last PE vehicle raised from outside investors.

Fundraise of the year (EMEA)
  1. EQT
  2. Hg
  3. Equistone Partners Europe

2018 was a quiet year for fundraising compared with the previous 12 months: EQT clearly did not get the memo. The firm kicked off marketing for Fund VIII – led by IR chief Jussi Saarinen – in September 2017. A few months in they “were having their arm bitten off” by hungry investors and within six months had closed on its hard of €10.75 billion. Management fee breaks were available for those committing ahead of the first close and for those writing bigger cheques, which clearly aided momentum. Seventy percent of the LPs were existing EQT investors and 23 percent were based in the Nordics.

Secondaries deal of the year in Europe
  1. Coller Capital, Goldman Sachs and Campbell Lutyens for €2.5bn Nordic Capital GP-led
  2. Rede Partners, Pantheon, Idinvest Partners, Lombard Odier, HQ Capital and eQ Asset Management for re-launch of Lyceum as Horizon
  3. Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for Hermes GPE fund of funds restructuring

The GP-led secondaries market was worth $24 billion last year. Last year saw the largest such deal yet, a process on Nordic Capital’s 2008-vintage fund which saw €2.5 billion of net asset value moved into a continuation vehicle. Backed by Coller Capital and Goldman Sachs, and run by Campbell Lutyens, the deal gave the GP more time to work on its assets and offered liquidity to LPs that wanted it. “The Nordic transaction was all about taking good assets and putting them into the right home, securing additional time to maximise value creation,” Rune Munk, a London-based partner at Coller, said at the time.

Secondaries firm of the year in Europe
  1. Glendower Capital
  2. Coller Capital
  3. Goldman Sachs

Glendower Capital only spun out in 2017 but has already established itself as a force. The former secondaries arm of Deutsche Asset Management has raised $2 billion for its first independent fund, on its way to a hard-cap of $2.5 billion. It has also been on the end of several interesting deals, including the acquisition of a €100 million portfolio of direct stakes from Bridgepoint and a $530 million GP-led deal involving US deal-by-deal investor Argonne Capital Group.

“Glendower has gone through an intense and exciting journey in its first 18 months of its life as an independent firm. We are very pleased and thankful for the continuing strong support of our existing and new partners since we launched Glendower,” says Carlo Pirzio-Biroli, managing partner and CEO.

Secondaries advisor of the year in Europe
  1. Campbell Lutyens
  2. Rede Partners
  3. Lazard

It is apt that the advisor of the year in Europe also worked on the deal of the year. Campbell Lutyens followed up its work on the ground-breaking BC Partners transaction with a €2.5 billion GP-led process on Nordic Capital’s 2008-vintage fund, the largest deal of its type. It also advised Eurazeo on a deal that saw it move around €600 million of assets off its balance sheet into a new vehicle. In the past 12 months, Campbell Lutyens’ secondaries team has advised on an aggregate $9 billion of transaction volume.

Firm of the year in Africa
  1. Ethos
  2. AfricInvest
  3. Development Partners International

Ethos enjoyed something of a fundraising bonanza in 2018. The firm collected 2.5 billion rand ($180 million; €160 million) for its debut mid-market fund, which is already close to 60 percent invested, and held a first close on Ethos Fund VII en route to its 8 billion rand target. Ethos also blazed a trail with the launch of a dedicated AI fund to co-invest in portfolio companies that would benefit from investment in digital infrastructure. The fund attracted 600 million rand in a first close and is seeking 1 billion rand in total.

Firm of the year in Benelux
  1. IK Investment Partners
  2. Gilde Equity Management
  3. Main Capital Partners

IK Investment Partners has a successful history in Benelux, acquiring high-quality brands such as Dutch-based Signature Foods, and it’s been another busy year. The mid-market specialist, which closed its second small cap fund on €550 million in February, has made three investments in the Netherlands over the past 12 months, including specialised cables and connectors business 2Connect and data security outfit Infradata. “Since 1995, IK has helped 16 local companies to grow. Given the success IK has seen with its investments in the Benelux over the years, we look forward to further building on our track record and supporting the local business community,” says partner Remko Hilhorst.

Firm of the year in CEE
  1. Mid Europa Partners
  2. Abris Capital Partners
  3. Enterprise Investors

Mid Europa Partners came out on top again in Central and Eastern Europe, having claimed top spot in 2017 and 2016. The pioneers of private investment in the region, led by co-managing partners Robert Knorr and Matthew Strassberg, made four acquisitions in 2018, including picking up Serbia’s leading private healthcare provider MediGroup and leading Polish consumer goods company Hortex. In October it successfully exited PKL, Poland’s largest cable car, ski lift and ski slope service provider.

Firm of the year in France
  1. Ardian
  2. Equistone Partners Europe
  3. Eurazeo

Raise the topic of French private equity with any market source and the conversation will soon turn towards Ardian. The Paris-headquartered global giant completed six deals in its home country through a combination of buyouts, growth investments and co-investments last year and also completed several fundraises, growing its AuM to a whopping $72 billion. Ardian’s French heritage is an important part of its DNA and the country remains one of its most important markets, says Philippe Poletti, chief executive of Ardian France and head of buyout, who adds that even in a difficult macro environment, France offers excellent investment opportunities.

Firm of the year in Germany
  1. Deutsche Beteiligungs
  2. Equistone Partners Europe
  3. IK Investment Partners and Oakley Capital

It was a tight race among firm of the year contenders in Germany, but mid-market-focused DBAG retained its crown. The firm has been on a roll in 2018 in an environment that has not been easy due to uncertainty in the macro economy. DBAG completed six deals, three in its core market segment of between €50 million and €250 million, and three smaller deals, some of which are platform acquisitions. “Germany is a nice place to be and we have all the time tried to improve the firm especially in this market segment. We are focused on finding attractive opportunities in a more complicated macro environment,” says Torsten Grede, a spokesman for the firm.

Firm of the year in Iberia
  1. Black Toro Capital
  2. Portobello Capital
  3. Magnum Capital

Black Toro Capital returns once more as the leader in the Iberian market. The special situations manager held a dry close on its third fund at €99 million in June, which together with a €50 million commitment from Spanish development fund Instituto de Credito Oficial brings it to 42 percent of its €350 million target. It was also busy on the deal front, including masterminding the merger between portfolio company Carbures and Inypsa to create aerospace company Airtificial.

Firm of the year in Italy
  1. Ambienta
  2. The Carlyle Group
  3. Investindustrial

Ambienta, which focuses on industrial growth investing in companies driven by environmental trends, held its first and final close for its Ambienta III fund after only three months of active marketing. The fund surpassed its original €500 million target and hit its €635 million hard cap. Ambienta signed three new investments in 2018 and announced its second exit from Fund II, which generated a 3.5x and more than 50 percent IRR. “The award is a testament to our unique offering at Ambienta, investing in businesses with a sustainability edge, which has generated significant returns for our investors as well as benefitting the environment,” says Ambienta CEO Nino Tronchetti Provera.

Firm of the year in MENA
  1. Investcorp
  2. SEAF
  3. Gulf Capital

Investcorp raised $7.3 billion across all strategies, including more than $1 billion of deal-by-deal capital in the Gulf in 2018. Since its inception in 1982 the firm has made over 185 private equity deals in the US, Europe, Middle East, the North Africa region and Asia. “It is an honour to have been awarded Firm of the Year in MENA, especially as that recognition has been bestowed upon us by our industry peers,” says Hazem Ben-Gacem, who is co-CEO and leads the firm’s private equity activities in Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Firm of the year in the Nordics
  1. EQT
  2. Nordic Capital
  3. Triton Partners

What is there left to say about the largest private equity firm to emerge from Scandinavia? EQT is resolutely global but still spends enough time and capital in its home territory to be voted Firm of the Year in the Nordics. Between its private equity funds, its credit vehicles and its real estate business, the firm made six investments in the Nordics in 2018 and sealed two exits, including the sale of industrial automation company Piab to Patricia Industries.

Firm of the year in Switzerland
  1. Partners Group
  2. Montana Capital Partners
  3. Capvis Equity Partners

In addition to a slew of deals, around 17 percent of Partners Group’s €83 billion in assets under management comes from clients based in Switzerland. Among other investments the firm acquired Megadyne Group a leading manufacturer of power transmission belts, from private equity firm Astorg and purchased Ammeraal Beltech a global leader in light-weight process and conveyor belting, from Advent International. The two transactions had a combined enterprise value of €2 billion. Partners also joined Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to acquire Techem, Germany’s biggest water sub-metering services. In January 2018, Partners Group sold its remaining stake in valve manufacturer VAT Group, realising a reported gross return of 6x and a gross IRR of 74 percent on the original investment.

Firm of the year in the UK
  1. Hg
  2. Oakley Capital
  3. Epiris

Hg had an extremely active 2018 on both sides of the deal, returning £1.6 billion across 15 liquidity events and investing £1.2 billion in eight new deals. The small- and mid-cap specialist also became one of only a handful of private equity firms to expand into the large-cap buyout space with its £1.5 billion Saturn Fund 1. “As well as being an exceptionally busy year for transactions, Hg invested further in its investment team, operational bench and firm infrastructure,” says managing director Matthew Brockman. “This will continue in 2019 as we seek to further enhance our position as the number one technology and services investor in Europe.”

Fund of funds manager of the year in Europe
  1. HarbourVest
  2. Pantheon
  3. Adams Street Partners

HarbourVest makes it three wins in a row in the European funds of funds category. In March the firm hit a $1.7 billion final close on latest vehicle HIPEP VIII Partnership. Over the year it made $540 million in primary fund investments, $700 million in co-investments and $141 million of secondaries trades. “HarbourVest has invested more than $25 billion in Europe, Asia Pacific, and other emerging markets over the last 30 years,” says managing director Peter Wilson. “These long-term relationships allow us to provide clients with access to local and specialised insights in an evolving global private equity market.”

Placement Agent of the Year in Europe
  1. Campbell Lutyens
  2. Rede Partners
  3. Asante Capital

Naming the number one placement agent in Europe is always a close call. This year Campbell Lutyens nabbed the top spot. The firm had a stellar year.

Among European highlights for the firm that worked for 42 clients globally in 2018 transacting $32.5 billion across fund placement and secondaries advisory, was its work for Epiris. Under Campbell Lutyens’ exclusive guidance, Epiris Fund II, the manager’s first institutional private equity vehicle, reached final close in October on £821 million ($1 billion; €934 million). Targeting a global investor base of pension funds, endowments, foundations, asset managers and private investors, the fundraising was one of the largest for a first-time vehicle in Europe since the financial crisis.

Law Firm of the Year in Europe (Fund Formation)

  1. Proskauer Rose
  2. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
  3. MJ Hudson

Edging into first place is Proskauer Rose. With more than 150 lawyers dedicated to the private funds market, the firm has muscle. In 2018, it advised on more than 60 fund formation mandates globally representing more than €32 billion of committed capital. In Europe, where the firm operates from offices in London and Paris, Proskauer really shone. It advised Hg on its software buyout vehicle Hg Saturn that closed in October on £1.5 billion ($1.9 billion; €1.7 billion). Earlier on in the year, it advised Apiary Capital on its debut fundraising that drew investor interest globally to close on its £200 million hard-cap, and Nordic-focused buyout vehicle Litorina V that closed on Skr 3 billion ($325 million; €287 million).

Law Firm of the year in Europe (Transactions)
  1. Clifford Chance
  2. Debevoise & Plimpton
  3. MJ Hudson

Clifford Chance stood ahead of the pack last year. From its 17 European offices the firm acted for 43 private equity firms on more than 60 European mandates with a combined value of more than £30 billion ($39 billion; €34 billion). Its European clients include European heavyweights 3i, Actis, Cinven, CVC Capital Partners, EQT Partners, and Permira.

Among notable transactions the firm advised on in 2018 was Partners Group’s simultaneous acquisitions of belting technology companies UK-based Ammeraal Beltech (through an auction) and Italy’s Megadyne Group. The parallel acquisitions threw up complex diligence, transactional and regulatory issues, including anti-trust clearance and required input from the firm’s London, Milan, Amsterdam, Luxembourg and US offices.

Law firm of the year in Europe (secondaries)
  1. Kirkland & Ellis
  2. Debevoise & Plimpton
  3. O’Melveny & Myers

Kirkland & Ellis remains the dominate secondaries law firm in Europe in terms of the volume and variety of deals it did last year. It advised on $6.85 billion of transactions in the region, including seven GP-led deals worth a combined $5.1 billion. These included our Deal of the Year, the process on Nordic Capital’s 2008-vintage fund. It also worked on a number of preferred equity deals for a combined value of more than $750 million.

Lender of the year in Europe
  1. Ares Management
  2. Hayfin Capital Management
  3. Tikehau Capital

Led by co-heads of European Credit Blair Jacobson and Michael Dennis, Ares Management has taken the prize for top lender. The firm’s €6.5 billion fundraise for Ares Capital Europe IV caused its European assets under management to nearly double in the space of a year, hitting $21 billion in September 2018.

The Ares European Direct Lending team had deployed approximately €5.9 billion across 30 separate new transactions in the 12 months leading up to the end of the third quarter, making it a real force to be reckoned with. “Having completed over 180 investments over the past 12 years, we have fostered a wealth of knowledge. This not only facilitates efficient diligence, strong conviction around investments and deliverability, but it also makes us a value-add partner to our borrowers,” says Jacobson.