LARGE-CAP FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. CVC Capital Partners
It was onwards and upwards for CVC Capital Partners, which takes home this coveted award for the third year running.
CVC’s “strategic opportunities” fund continued to balloon, reaching the $5 billion mark and counting. The longer-horizon vehicle made its first two investments, backing UK roadside assistance business RAC and UK motorway service provider Moto.
CVC also continued to amass capital for its growth fund, which is on track to close above its $750 million target in March.
In June, the firm teamed up with The Carlyle Group to form Neptune Oil & Gas, which plans to make up to $5 billion of investments into the energy sector.
The European giant made some significant hires during the year, including bagging renowned German investment banker Alexander Dibelius to head its business in German-speaking Europe and bringing in Krzysztof Krawczyk to head its new Warsaw office.
CVC also returned a heap of cash to its investors through several lucrative sales, including netting 2x through the sale of Virgin Active to Brait. Acquisitions include Stage Entertainment and Alvogen.
MID-MARKET FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
2. PAI Partners
Led by managing partner and CEO Thomas von Koch Swedish powerhouse EQT was a force to be reckoned with in 2015. In August the firm held a first and final close on EQT VII on its €6.75 billion hard-cap, significantly above its €5.25 billion target, after just six months on the road.
Undeterred by a six-year investment period and the option of deal-by-deal carry, the vehicle attracted a staggering €11 billion worth of interest.
It was a record year for the firm on the deal side, with acquisitions including Italian healthcare device manufacturer Lima, Swedish men’s shirts brand Eden and northern European toy retailer TOP-TOY.
On the exit side, EQT made great use of a buoyant IPO market in the Nordics to list appliance business Dometic and Scandic Hotels. Among other exits were luxury mobile phone manufacturer Vertu and Bulgarian cable operator blizoo.
EQT also brought several new partners on board across its offices and opened a new outpost in Madrid.
LIMITED PARTNER OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
2. European Investment Fund
3. Lancashire and London Pensions Partnership
Last year PGGM confirmed its place as one of the most influential voices on the European private equity scene. The pension fund manager was at the forefront of the debate around fees and transparency within the industry.
CIO of private markets Ruulke Bagijn took part in a roundtable discussion in the Dutch parliament and took a stand against “excesses in private equity”, pledging to support proposed reforms on tax and transparency.
Following its guidelines on alignment and fees published at the end of 2014, the fund went a step further and asserted that by 2020 it would stop investing in private equity managers that do not fully disclose their fees.
As well as backing several new funds, PGGM was part of a consortium which acquired fleet management company LeasePlan in a €3. 7 billion deal, and teamed up with a string of the industry’s biggest names to buy into a Palamon Capital Partners stapled transaction.
CO-INVESTOR OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
2. LGT Capital Partners
3. OMERS Private Equity
Limited partners are increasingly drawn to co-investments, hoping to boost returns. In 2015, Ardian was an active participant in that space, making a dozen co-investments, including in SIG, a manufacturer of aseptic carton packaging, and in Innovation Group, a provider of business process outsourcing services with a focus on insurance claims processing, both based in Europe.
The firm also did well on the exit side. “Strong markets in 2015 have helped us achieve some excellent exits, especially the IPO of Spie, which was our biggest investment and the largest French IPO of the past five years,” said Alexandre Motte, head of co-investment.
After 10 years of involvement in co-investments, Ardian ended the year amid much fanfare with the final closing of its €1.1 billion fourth co-investment fund, significantly larger than its predecessor, which amassed €730 million in 2007. With that fund, which was already one-third invested at the November close, Ardian will continue to take minority positions in private equity deals.
EXIT OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. King Digital Entertainment (Apax Partners)
2. AMCo (Cinven)
3. Center Parcs (The Blackstone Group)
Apax Partners’ sale of King Digital Entertainment is such stuff as private equity dreams are made of. Back in 2005 Apax Europe VI invested €29 million into the digital gaming company, which went on to create and launch mobile game Candy Crush Saga in 2011, one of the most popular games of all time.
Apax listed the company in New York in 2014 and sold its remaining 45 percent stake in November to video game maker Activision Blizzard – the brains behind Call of Duty and World of Warcraft – in a $5.9 billion deal. At final exit total proceeds from the modest initial investment reached around €2.7 billion, while gross money on invested capital and IRR stood at an eye-watering 93x and 55 percent.
Not a bad result to bring home to investors weeks before the launch of a new $7.5 billion European buyout fund.
DEAL OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Douglas Holdings (CVC Capital Partners)
2. Trainline (KKR)
3. ICBPI (Advent International/Bain Capital/Clessidra)
CVC Capital Partners’ acquisition of a majority stake in German perfume and cosmetics retailer Douglas Holdings from Advent International caused a stir within the European private equity community last summer.
Not only was the deal one of the year’s largest private equity-backed M&A transaction in the EMEA region, at €2.8 billion, it was also agreed mere days after Douglas had announced plans to return to the stock market.
Advent and the founding Kreke family – who re-invested alongside CVC for a 15 percent stake – took the retailer private in 2012 for around €1.5 billion.
Having seemed dead-set on an IPO, in announcing the CVC deal, chief executive Henning Kreke called the plan to go public “only the second-best option for the company”, while CVC partner Søren Vestergaard confirmed available capital for add-on acquisitions and a plan to take the business to the next level, focusing on “putting the customer in the centre”.
SECONDARIES FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
2. Montana Capital Partners
3. Coller Capital
It was a huge year for Ardian in Europe. The fund of funds opened a Madrid office, bringing its global bureau tally to 11, and picked up a €100 million portfolio of stakes from Nordic financial group Nordea.
Ardian’s secret sauce is its ability to complete on some of the largest deals of $1 billion or more in a quick and efficient manner, which gives comfort to large institutional investors looking to dispose of stakes. “There are only a few players that have the capacity to execute very large deals,” Olivier Decannière, head of Ardian UK, told sister publication Secondaries Investor last September. “We have the capacity to offer the liquidity on such large deals.”
The French firm has already got off to a flying start in 2016 with the purchase of a $940 million portfolio of private equity stakes from the Universities Superannuation Scheme.
With its latest $9 billion secondaries fund expected to close soon, we’ll be sure to hear more from this giant of the secondaries world this year.
SECONDARIES DEAL OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Palamon Capital Partners (Goldman Sachs AIMS PE Group/Morgan Stanley AIP/Rothschild Merchant Banking Group/Adams Street Partners/PGGM)
2. Keva (Partners Group)
3. Doughty Hanson (HarbourVest Partners)
Five buyers led by Goldman Sachs AIMS Private Equity Group bought stakes in two tail-end Palamon Capital Partners funds and committed capital to a new fund managed by the firm in what is known as a staple deal.
The group involved in the deal worth around €250 million also included Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners, Rothschild Merchant Banking Group, Adams Street Partners and Dutch pension fund manager PGGM, with Credit Suisse advising.
Many of the US-based investors in Palamon’s funds wanted to decrease their exposure to European funds, and the buyers were able to pick up the stakes at attractive prices. Couple this with the boost to fundraising that Palamon, led by managing partner Louis Elson, got to its latest secondaries vehicle and it’s easy to see why there were happy faces all round.
By all accounts the deal was a win-win for all three parties, with the high-quality nature of the GP providing comfort to the group committing to the new fund.
SECONDARIES ADVISOR OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Lazard Private Fund Advisory Group
2. Campbell Lutyens
3. Credit Suisse
Competition in the secondaries advisory space was fierce last year with ever-more complex deals forcing advisors to come up with increasingly innovative ways to structure deals.
Lazard Private Fund Advisory Group rose to the challenge, completing deals across private equity, real estate and infrastructure. In Europe, Lazard closed three complex GP-led liquidity deals and ended the year with a bang, executing an eyecatching restructuring of two funds from Danish buyout firm Odin Equity Partners, now BWB Partners. The deal typified everything the secondaries market exists for: providing solutions to LPs wanting to exit an investment, giving new LPs attractive terms through a new vehicle, boosting fundraising, and breathing new life and a new set of dynamics into a fund through a new structure.
The firm’s rise in headcount to 15 professionals globally in its secondaries advisory team last year means there will likely be more innovative and creative deals from Lazard in 2016.
SPECIAL SITUATIONS/TURNAROUND FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Sun European Partners
3. Rutland Partners
It was a tight race in a category where investment opportunities have been thin on the ground, but Sun European Partners’ team seized the crown from last year’s winner Endless thanks to its acquisition record and on-the-ground expansion.
The European arm of Sun Capital Partners reached into the homes of millions of Britons with its acquisition of one of the largest exporters of fresh produce and flowers from Africa into the EU, Finlays Horticulture, which supplies the likes of UK retailers Tesco and Marks & Spencer.
Tim Stubbs’s promotion to senior MD responsible for operations and overseeing European portfolio performance means those acquisitions are in a safe pair of hands.
Stamping its footprint in the Nordics, the firm opened its first office in Stockholm, hiring Michael Palm as managing director to head its third European outpost. In Frankfurt, the addition of Andreas Bosenberg as managing director bolstered the team.
DISTRESSED DEBT FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Oaktree Capital Management
2. Apollo Global Management
3. Cerberus Capital Management
On an earnings call in the middle of 2015, US-based Oaktree Capital chief executive Jay Wintrob noted that the firm continued “to take advantage of opportunities arising from the prolonged dislocation in the European lending markets stemming from the global financial crisis”.
The firm promptly launched two Europe-focused funds. Oaktree European Principal Fund IV (EPF IV) will target control investments “where dislocation or distress creates attractive investment propositions”, Wintrob said.
Oaktree European Capital Solutions Fund (ECS) will lend to mid-market companies. The firm has been coy about fund sizes, but EPF IV is likely to be ambitious given its predecessor raised €3. 2 billion. The earlier fund in the ECS series tapped a noteworthy €675 million.
And there was good reason for the firm’s continued commitment to Europe. Its European assets generally outperformed the US markets in Q3, Wintrob noted in an October call, with its European principal funds generating a 24 percent return over the previous 12 months.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN AFRICA
1. Helios Investment Partners
2. The Abraaj Group
Africa saw a surge of investment in 2015, with figures from African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s PE Data Tracker showing $4.3 billion was raised for the region last year, compared with $1.9 billion a year earlier.
It was in this booming environment that pan-African giant Helios Investment Partners knocked Actis off the top spot it had held for three consecutive years. After closing its third fund on its $1.1 billion hard-cap, making it the largest ever fund dedicated to African private equity, Helios also made its first-ever Egyptian investment, backing electronic and payments platform Fawry.
Other notable investments included acquiring a 12.4 percent stake in Canadian oil and gas company Africa Oil Corp for $100 million and backing Crown Agents, specialist providers of financial solutions in emerging markets.
The firm followed this up with the exit of outdoor advertising company Continental Outdoor Media, as well as offloading its shares in Equity Bank to NSSF Uganda.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN BENELUX
1. Waterland Private Equity Investments
2. Gilde Buy Out Partners
3. H2 Equity Partners
It’s a first-time win for Netherlands-headquartered Waterland Private Equity Investments, and what a year the firm has had, closing its sixth institutional fund on €1.25 billion in just three months, as well as raising €300 million for its WPEF VI Overflow Fund.
Waterland also appointed Frank Vlayen as group managing partner and chief executive officer. In his new role he will take over the day-to-day management of Waterland from founder and chairman Rob Thielen.
Vlayen joined Waterland in 2005 as principal and during his tenure was involved in a number of notable deals, including nursing homes business Senior Living Group.
The team also obtained a licence as an Alternative Investment Fund Manager under the EU Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive and got more involved in economic, social and corporate governance issues when it became a signatory to the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN CEE/RUSSIA
1. Mid Europa Partners
2. VTB Capital
3. 21 Concordia
With challenging investment conditions and continued investor apathy in Central and Eastern Europe’s private equity market, it is understandable that some investors were reluctant to invest in the region in 2015. But not Mid Europa Partners.
It was another strong year for the mid-cap buyout firm, which saw the team make four investments representing half a billion euros and three exits, alongside promoting five.
The group led by Thierry Baudon put its €800 million fourth fund to work, backing Danube Foods Group in one of the region’s top 10 private equity-backed M&A deals of the year, according to data from Dealogic, making an investment in Romanian healthcare company Centrul Medical Unirea and acquiring call centre business CMC from ISS Turkey.
The firm also increased its stake in Walmark, a consumer healthcare portfolio company from its third fund, after originally acquiring a 50 per cent stake in 2012.
The team also offloaded industrial equipment company Norican to Altor and telecom group Bite to Providence, the last two assets in its 2005 Fund II.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN FRANCE
1. PAI Partners
3. LBO France
The French private equity sector has faced a tricky few years. The effects of aggressive tax plans and relative inaction on tackling the country’s deficit by the government gave investors plenty of reasons to avoid the local buyout market.
So the fact that PAI Partners shattered its €3 billion hard-cap to close its sixth fund on €3. 3 billion last year was certainly noteworthy.
The buyout firm showed that it is back and stronger than ever, demonstrating its ability to execute a number of high-profile transactions.
During the year the firm put Fund VI to good use, acquiring European budget hotel chain B&B Hotels from The Carlyle Group and Montifiore, and European outdoor equipment retailer AS Adventures from Lion Capital.
Highlights on the exit side included the sale of e-commerce brand Hunkemöller to Carlyle and GCS from the firm’s fourth fund in December, and netting a 2x return from the sale of its shares in IT services group Atos.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN GERMANY
1. Terra Firma Capital Partners
2. CVC Capital Partners
3. Deutsche Beteiligungs
It was a busy year for Guy Hands’s firm. As well as preparing to return to market with a €2 billion fund – with €1 billion of committed capital already under the firm’s belt – Hands decided to share ownership of Terra Firma for the first time with the appointment of former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King.
On top of that Terra Firma pulled off one of the most impressive European exits of the year. Having drastically transformed German motorway service area business Tank & Rast over a decade-long hold, cleverly repositioning it as an infrastructure asset, the firm sold it to Allianz Capital, one of the business’s previous owners, in a deal generating a 7.5x return and an IRR of 122 percent, as well as delivering €2.1 billion back to investors in the 2002-vintage Terra Firma Capital Partners II.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN IBERIA
1. Magnum Capital Industrial Partners
2. Trilantic Capital Partners
3. Black Toro
Madrid-based Magnum Capital Industrial Partners got 2015 off to a strong start, holding a first close of between €150 million and €200 million on its second vehicle purely off the back of existing investors.
From there the firm provided the LP community with several good reasons why it deserves a commitment.
In July, Magnum sold Spanish elderly care group Geriatros to PAI Partners in a deal generating a 3. 5x return and an IRR of more than 50 percent. In October a joint venture controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing agreed to acquire Portuguese wind-farm operator Iberwind Group in a €288 million deal.
Magnum also completed two recapitalisations, of fragrances and flavours producer Iberchem and Portuguese generic pharmaceuticals business Generis. All in all the firm returned around €500 million to its investors.
The firm also put Magnum Capital II to work, picking up orthopaedic device manufacturer Orliman from The Riverside Company, and is on-track to close the vehicle on its €500 million target this summer.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN ITALY
1. Apax Partners
Apax Partners may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of the private equity industry in Italy, but the European heavyweight certainly made its presence felt in 2015 with two spectacular exits.
In April the 2005-vintage, €4.31 billion Apax Europe VI agreed to offload its stake in Italian bank Banca Farmafactoring to Centerbridge Partners following a dual-track process, netting an expected 5.5x return and 23 percent IRR.
The firm closed out the year with its first divestment from the $7.5 billion Apax VIII, offloading Rhiag-Inter Auto Parts Italia to LKQ Corporation in a deal valuing the business at €1.04 billion and generating a gross return of 3. 25x and an IRR of more than 60 percent.
The two exits contributed to the whopping $16.6 billion Apax has returned to is investors since January 2014. Not bad going as they hit the fundraising trail with another $7.5 billion fund.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN MENA
1. The Abraaj Group
2. Apax Partners
3. Samena Capital
Shortlisted last year, UAE-based The Abraaj Group regained the top spot in 2015, a just reward for a stellar year in its home region. The firm shot past its $250 million target to close its second North Africa-focused fund on $375 million in July, more than three times larger than its previous vehicle.
With its focus on healthcare, fast moving consumer goods and education, the fund was already 70 percent deployed by the end of the year. Typically growing market leading businesses, the firm further expanded its healthcare platform North Africa Hospital Holding Company with acquisitions in Egypt and Tunisia, and partnered with Egyptian education group Tiba. In another headline transaction, the firm joined with TPG to invest in Saudi Arabian fast food company Kudu, TPG’s first deal in the region.
Abraaj’s exits included a landmark London-listing in May for Egypt’s Integrated Diagnostics Holdings, which was 11.2 times oversubscribed.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN THE NORDICS
2. Valedo Partners
3. Nordic Capital
The Swedish giant stormed back in 2015 to snatch the top spot from last year’s champion Nordic Capital with a sensational fund close and record deal activity.
In August EQT held a first and final close on its seventh buyout fund on its €6.75 billion hard-cap, significantly above its €5.25 billion target, after just six months on the road and having attracted €11 billion worth of interest.
With plenty of capital to put to work, EQT secured several notable new investments in the region, including picking up a majority stake in Nordic Aviation Capital, Danish brick house producer HusCompagniet, toy retailer TOP-TOY, Swedish industrial vacuum business Piab and Swedish men’s shirts brand Eton, and launching a public-to-private of Swedish enterprise software maker IFS.
Among a healthy string of exits EQT pulled off the year’s largest private-equity-backed IPO in the Nordic region, listing appliances business Dometic with a SKr14.2 billion (€152 million; $166 million) valuation.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN SWITZERLAND
1. PAI Partners
3. Invision Private Equity
Despite initial panic when the Swiss National Bank announced its intention to abandon the SFr/euro exchange rate floor in January 2015, followed by an immediate and strong appreciation of the Swiss Franc, Switzerland remained an attractive region for foreign and domestic investors in 2015, including PAI Partners.
This is the second win this year for the firm, after also having a great year in France despite tough market conditions.
After a record-breaking fundraising year, which saw the team close its sixth fund above hard-cap at €3. 3 billion, it was also actively investing from its fifth fund in Switzerland.
In a notable exit, the firm sold aviation company Swissport, a worldwide operator in ground handling and cargo services, which serves around 224 million passengers and 4.1 million tonnes of cargo a year on behalf of some 700 client-companies, to Chinese conglomerate HNA in a SFr 2.73 billion (€2.5 billion; $2.7 billion) deal.
FIRM OF THE YEAR IN THE UK
1. Inflexion Private Equity
2. Charterhouse Capital Partners
3. Equistone Partners Europe
In a thriving UK market, London headquartered mid-market firm Inflexion Private Equity made six investments and three exits, including generating an impressive 14x return and 44 percent IRR on the sale of air conditioning pump manufacturer Aspen Pumps to fellow mid-market firm 3i.
The team acquired Alcumus Group for £92 million (£132 million; €117 million) from Sovereign Capital and sold Reward Gateway to US PE firm Great Hill Partners, generating a 7.7x return and 59 per cent IRR.
A notable 4x return and 80 percent IRR was also made when the firm floated Sanne Group on the London Stock Exchange.
The team also generated a 3. 6x return and 84 per cent IRR when it floated online holiday retailer On the Beach Group on the London Stock Exchange at a market cap of £240 million within just 23 months of ownership.
FUND OF FUNDS MANAGER OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. HarbourVest Partners
2. Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners
3. Access Capital Partners
With a glass of champagne in hand as the London Stock Exchange opened, HarbourVest’s listed vehicle HarbourVest Global Private Equity (HVPE) stepped up from the Specialist Fund Market to the main board in early September.
Speaking after the listing, HVPE chairman Michael Bunbury said it opened it up to “people of more modest means who want to have an exposure to private equity”.
HVPE’s investment portfolio stood at $1.2 billion at the end of October. The firm has committed €12 billion to European investments since inception. With a new office on Jermyn Street, the London team continues to grow, amounting to 40 professionals targeting EMEA investments and investor relations.
In November, Carolina Espinal was promoted to managing director in London, reinforced by the promotion of two London-based principals in the same month. Her colleague, managing director Kathleen Bacon, is a founding member of non-profit Level20, launched last year to promote the number of women within private equity.
PLACEMENT AGENT OF THE YEAR EUROPE
1. Campbell Lutyens
3. Rede Partners
The London-headquartered Campbell Lutyens has roared in at number one in this category for the fourth consecutive year. Aside from its thriving secondaries business, infrastructure mandates and international activity from its offices in New York and Hong Kong, the firm helped raise €2.54 billion of European primary funds alone last year.
It got off to an early start, assisting UK upper mid-market firm Exponent Private Equity close its third flagship vehicle on £1 billion ($1.5 billion; €1.3 billion) in April, thought to be one of the largest single country-focused European funds. The fund sped from first close in January to final close in just three months, beating its initial £800 million target.
On the primary side, Exponent’s third fund was one of four $1 billion-plus vehicles the firm helped raise last year. Overall it helped 12 managers raise $12.9 billion of capital, including 29 closes, of which seven were final and oversubscribed.
LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE (FUND FORMATION)
1. King & Wood Mallesons
2. Clifford Chance
3. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
It’s never a surprise to see the King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) team appear in this category, and they especially deserved to take the top honours in 2015. It was another action-packed year for the private equity group led by industry luminaries Jonathan Blake and Michael Halford. In a crowded fundraising environment, they managed to clinch quick and hefty capital hauls for firms across the region, raising a plethora of funds from the likes of niche players such as Access Capital Partners and Portobello Capital to big buyout funds from PAI Partners and Ardian.
One of most the notable successes for the team last year was advising on the €1.1 billion Ardian Co-investment IV, which received commitments from more than 50 investors globally, of which more than half were new to Ardian. Navigating the ever-popular co-investment space is never easy, and KWM ensured the fund closed without a hitch.
LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE (TRANSACTIONS)
1. King & Wood Mallesons
2. Clifford Chance
3. Allen & Overy
While active on the fund formation side, King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) saw an equally robust amount of work on the deal side in 2015, propelling the firm to dethrone 14-time category winner Clifford Chance.
The team worked on a slew of deals, showing strength in complex exits and restructurings. For example, the Inflexion Equity Partners carve-out of the Engineering Inspection & Consultancy division from Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance and RSA Insurance Ireland. Last year also saw the KWM team advise Bowmark Capital on the disposal of the entire issued share capital of restaurant chain Las Iguanas to Casual Dining Group.
But one of the most complex undertakings of the year was on Intermediate Capital Group’s £1.2 billion ($1.7 billion; €1.56 billion) disposal of equity, debt and co-investment interests in the portfolio of 34 European companies to a US investor. If this kind of activity keeps up, KWM can expect to keep its hold on this title in 2016.
LENDER OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
2. Ares Management
Competition in this category is always tight. Last year’s winner for Mid-cap Lender of the Year has grabbed the top spot in our revised overall category for 2015, and London-based Intermediate Capital Group certainly deserves it.
Benoit Durteste, who heads the firm’s well-established mezzanine strategy and sits on both the investment and executive committees, said the manager has, as one of the longest-lived incumbents in Europe, stayed ahead of the curve by embracing new strategies and expanding into new markets.
With around €1.4 billion deployed into 15 deals in 2015, the senior strategy clipped along list year and the firm closed its second fund on its €3 billion hard-cap. That €3 billion was matched by Europe VI, its flagship mezzanine fund, signalling larger deals ahead. Cut the numbers any way, said head of direct lending, Max Mitchell – deals done, money deployed, size of loans – and the theme is the rise of the asset class.