NEW PATHS FOR RBS

The €71 billion ($106 billion) takeover of Dutch bank ABN Amro by The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) towards the end of last year has already had at least two major ripple effects on RBS' European leveraged finance business.

One is the recent appointment of John Hourican, who had spearheaded RBS' European leveraged finance activities for two years, to the role of ABN's chief financial officer. This in turn paved the way for Jochen König, a ten-year RBS veteran who was previously head of leveraged finance in Germany, to take over the leadership role for Europe and Asia Pacific.

The second effect is that the acquisition of ABN Amro brings with it a new strategic direction for König and colleagues. He says: “We are focussed on converting our market-leading position in leveraged finance into cross-selling an enlarged product offering following the takeover, and also exploiting the extended geographical coverage that we now have.”

König says that the product stable now includes the likes of M&A, equity capital markets and global payment systems – “things that we've not had before”. He also points out that RBS can now make “some very interesting footholds” in markets where ABN Amro has achieved significant penetration such as Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey.

König notes the large deals that have begun to emerge from these markets recently and is clearly relishing the prospect of helping to grow the leveraged business into emerging markets at a time of strife in more developed markets. Speaking of the latter, he says: “Mark-to-markets and sell-down positions have been massive for large parts of the industry and no-one will argue that there hasn't been a huge shock and a shake-up of the whole banking world.”

However, he also notes the huge success of the private equity model since the 1990s, the continuing validity of that model and resilient deal flow (he points out that RBS has completed eight deals in the last six weeks). In addition, he notes that institutional investors are beginning to return to the European syndication market – citing the buyouts of international pharmaceutical firm Convatec and UK oil services business Expro as two recent examples where “institutional accounts were back again”.

ADVENT CONTINUES TEAMBUILDING
Advent Venture Partners, a London-based venture capital firm, has appointed Mike Chalfen as a general partner in its technology team. Chalfen will work alongside technology partners Peter Baines, Frédéric Court and Martin McNair, completing the process of generational change in the team. Nick Teasdale and Neil Pearce, partners at the firm since 1996 and 1982 respectively, are retiring this year. Dave Cheeseman stepped down from the firm last year. There are plans to further expand the team with some more junior hires later this year, Advent said. Baines, a technology-focused general partner, said: “The transition is something we have been working on and planning for some time. We agreed it some years ago around the raising of our 2005 fund. These transitions can be difficult and we were determined to handle it well.”

CLEANTECH INVESTOR HIRES INDUSTRIAL PARTNER
Foresight Group, the Kent, England-based technology investor, has appointed Nigel Aitchison as an industrial partner. Aitchison will focus on the environmental infrastructure and cleantech sector, in which Foresight recently made its fourth investment of the year when backing Silvigen, a UK-based producer and supplier of biomass fuels for use in the power industry. Aitchison has 18 years' waste industry experience and was most recently a director of Shanks Waste Management. He has been instrumental in bidding for PFI contracts, including leading negotiations on the successful £1.5 billion PFI bid for the East London Waste Authority.

EURAZEO BOLSTERS EXECUTIVE BOARD
Eurazeo, the listed French investment company, has appointed Luis Marini-Portugal to its executive board. Marini-Portugal joined Eurazeo's investment team in 1999 and participated in the structuring and oversight of investments in satellite provider Eutelsat, electrical parts and supplies distributor Rexel, and clay roof tile and brick maker Terreal. Before joining Eurazeo, he spent six years at JP Morgan – first in the London M&A and leveraged finance teams, and then as an equity analyst in Paris.

NEW HEAD OF PE AT HOULIHAN LOKEY
Houlihan Lokey, an investment bank, has hired Florus Plantenga as a director in its London office to lead the firm's European private equity coverage. Before Houlihan Lokey, Plantenga spent five years with Société Générale in its corporate and investment banking operation in London and Paris. At SocGen, he was a director of Egret Management, a leveraged loan CLO manager. Before that, he was a director of financial sponsor coverage for the firm. During his investment banking career he has also worked for Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan and Kleinwort Benson. Houlihan Lokey opened its London office in 2002, followed by further openings in Paris and Frankfurt.

INFLEXION RECRUITS MEET NEED FOR SPEED
Andrew Lee, the former head of Saatchinvest, has joined UK mid-market GP Inflexion Private Equity as assistant director. Leek left Alchemy Partners in 2002 to head up the Saatchi brothers' brand acquisition venture. Clara Chen also joins Inflexion as an investment executive, while Christian Hamilton and Catherine Richards have both been promoted to investment director. Tim Smallbone, who joined Inflexion's Manchester office in 2004, has been promoted to partner. Gareth Healey, investment director at Inflexion, said that with a larger team, the private equity firm can execute deals more quickly. “We are deliberately overmanned so we can focus on speed of execution. In one recent process, we were outbid by a trade buyer, only to be allowed back into the process at a later stage because we could move quickly,” Healey said. “In an environment where deals are taking longer to execute, speed is very important.”

INVESTEC HIRES FOR DEBT AND EQUITY
Investec Investment Bank and Securities has appointed Gareth Taylor as a director in the corporate finance division to lead its coverage of private equity clients, while Matthew Wesley has joined the firm's debt advisory team as an associate director. Taylor was previously a director at Deloitte where he advised Deutsche Bahn on its acquisition of Chiltern Railways, Close Brothers Private Equity on its disposal of Fishers and HgCapital on its public-to-private of shl Group. Wesley was previously a vice president in the debt advisory team at Lazard, which he joined in 2004. His transactional experience includes advising Companhia Siderurgica Nacional (CSN) on its public offer for Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus, supporting Nippon Sheet Glass' acquisition of glass maker Pilkington and a takeover defence for television company ITV. Prior to Lazard, he spent three years with Citigroup's corporate and investment banking division in London.