PEI Awards 2016: EMEA winners

LARGE-CAP FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. EQT
2. Cinven
3. CVC Capital Partners

Since Thomas von Koch took the helm in 2014, Swedish firm EQT has moved onto another plane and 2016 was the year it cemented itself as leader of the next generation of industry giants.

In April, EQT found itself inside the hallowed Top 10 in the PEI 300, with a five-year fundraising total of more than $18.5 billion. And this figure didn’t even include the debut funds it closed across three new segments or geographies in 2016. First came the €530 million mid-market credit fund in April, then the €566 million venture fund in May, and finally the $726 million US mid-market private equity fund.

What’s more, the firm hired around 100 people globally and completed a slew of deals, including pulling off three high-profile European take-privates. Among its gems on the exit side is Atos Medical, which scooped a PEI Operational Excellence Award, impressing the judges with true operational value creation and a double-digit IRR.

MID-MARKET FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Ardian
2. IK Investment Partners
3. Bridgepoint

Fundraising giant Ardian showed no signs of slowing in 2016, raising €4.5 billion for its latest mid-cap buyout fund in just four months – its fastest-ever raise – and a further €1 billion to invest in small-cap businesses.

The 36-strong mid-cap investment team had a storming year across the continent, completing seven new acquisitions, seven bolt-ons and five exits, keeping up with its record of investing between €500 million and €700 million per year. 

These include the acquisition of medical affairs communications firm Envision, the first deal to be signed by the Ardian UK mid-cap team, lighting fixtures provider SLV, which it acquired from Cinven, and audio technology business d&b. 

Exits included the sale of Milan-based Bruni Glass, disinfection solutions business Laboratoires Anios, German fashion retailer Schustermann & Borenstein and a majority stake in chemicals group Novacap.

LIMITED PARTNER OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. ATP Private Equity Partners
2. Kirkbi
3. Ilmarinen


ATP, Denmark’s largest pension fund, underwent some personnel changes in 2016. It saw its chief investment officer depart and its chief executive Carsten Stendevad announce that he would step down by the year-end. This has not, however, thrown its private equity programme off course.

In June it allocated a further €700 million to ATP Private Equity Partners, its private equity fund investment unit led by Torben Vangstrup. The commitment almost doubled the size of ATP PEP Fund V, bringing it up to €1.5 billion. Fund V was originally launched in 2014 on €800 million and continues the investment strategy that ATP’s private equity team has been pursuing since it was founded in 2001: investing in global buyout funds, venture and distressed assets funds.

The team is understood to have slowed its investment pace during the hot market of 2016. Notably it co-invested alongside Apollo Global Management in the $15 billion take-private of alarm business ADT and Investindustrial’s investment in Artsana.

DEAL OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Cinven, Permira, Mid Europa Partners for Allegro
2. Advent International, Bpifrance for Safran Identity & Security
3. Carlyle Group for Atotech

European giants Cinven and Permira teamed up with CEE specialist Mid Europa Partners to acquire Allegro Group, the largest online marketplace and non-food shopping destination in Poland, in a $3.4 billion deal, one of the five largest transactions in the EMEA region last year.

The buyers identified a strong tailwind for this kind of business; the market is expected to double in the next five years. The firms’ investment is expected to be used to accelerate the company’s growth, improve the customer experience, and make the platform more attractive to the vendors that use it.

The trio found their cultures meshed together well, with a strong focus on growth and value creation at the heart of their investment theses.

A business of this size is a prime candidate for an IPO when the time comes – one for the industry to keep a close eye on.

EXIT OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. CVC Capital Partners for Formula One
2. Syntegra for Moleskine
3. Cinven for Numericable

In what will certainly go down as one of the industry’s most iconic deals, CVC exited its investment in motorsport franchise Formula One in 2016, having committed to the business 10 years earlier. 

CVC acquired the company for an estimated $1.7 billion in 2006 and in September revealed it had sold it to US cable giant Liberty Media in a deal valuing it at $8 billion, of which $4.4 billion was equity, CVC and Liberty said in a joint statement.

Beyond the return – which is understood to be in the region of 4.5x – the high profile nature of the wealthy sport, which often bumps up against the worlds of politics and international relations, has made this a private equity investment like no other.

In January 2017 it was revealed that Formula One’s famed boss and figurehead Bernie Ecclestone, 86, who had run the business for 40 years, had been replaced at the helm of the renamed Formula One Group by News Corp veteran Chase Carey.

CO-INVESTMENT OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Cinven, Permira, Mid Europa Partners for Allegro
2. Advent International, Bpifrance for Safran Identity & Security
3. BC Partners, PSP Investments for Keter

Cinven and Permira are certainly no strangers to one another; the European titans have teamed up in the past, including as part of a consortium acquiring DIY retailer Maxeda in 2004.

But neither firm had made a direct investment in Poland. That’s where CEE specialist Mid Europa Partners came in.
Offering on-the-ground experience – including an existing investment in another leading Polish retailer, Zabka Polska – Mid Europa was a key asset at the negotiating table, where other consortium bids lacked a local partner.

As well as sharing the burden of the underwriting risk (a $3 billion-plus deal is a very big bite, even for players of this size), both lead partners bring extensive international and sector experience to the table.

What’s more, the trio found their cultures meshed together well, with a strong focus on growth and value creation at the heart of their investment theses.

SECONDARIES DEAL OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. HarbourVest Partners for SVG Capital
2. DB Private Equity, Goldman Sachs, Greenhill Cogent for NBGI
3. Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs for Terra Firma

As prominent deals go, either in the buyout or secondaries markets, it’s hard to look past HarbourVest Partners’ unsolicited takeover bid for SVG Capital. The Boston-headquartered investment firm launched a dawn raid on a Monday morning in September with a 650 pence-a-share ($8; €8) offer for shares in the London-listed company, and by 9am had accounted for just over 51 percent of the company’s stock.

What followed was a five-week saga that played out in public, with HarbourVest finally triumphing over buyers including Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Goldman Sachs. Despite the victory, executives from the firm remained humble, telling sister publication Secondaries Investor in November they “didn’t think it would be a straight line”.

In a year when the firm celebrated the 30th anniversary of its first secondaries purchase and closed its Dover Street IX secondaries fund on $4.8 billion, the SVG transaction has set the bar high for PEI’s Secondaries Deal of the Year. Readers will have to wait and see just what this innovative firm comes up with this year.

SECONDARIES FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. 17Capital
2. Ardian
3. HarbourVest Partners

London-headquartered 17Capital burst onto the market in 2008 with an innovative offering that seems indispensable now but at the time was somewhat avant-garde. In the nine years since then the firm has raised three funds that have more than doubled in size, and is understood to be seeking around €900 million for its latest vehicle.

What makes 17Capital unique is its pioneering use of preferred equity – a tranche that sits between debt and equity in the capital structure – in the secondaries market. Instead of selling stakes in their portfolios, holders can take on preferred equity and keep exposure to any potential upside while benefiting from liquidity.

Mainstream secondaries professionals may be surprised at 17Capital’s win in this category, but it is clear PEI readers believe the firm, led by Pierre-Antoine de Selancy, deserves recognition for its ground-breaking work. And after all, isn’t breaking new ground what secondaries is all about?

SECONDARIES ADVISOR OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Campbell Lutyens
2. Greenhill Cogent
3. Credit Suisse

The secondaries advisory landscape in EMEA is a competitive one with top notch firms giving each other a run for their money. From its London headquarters, Campbell Lutyens set the tone early, orchestrating an €800 million process involving Arcus Infrastructure Partners’ 2007-vintage fund at the beginning of the year. The deal not only gave liquidity to at least 19 LPs, it provided lead buyer Dutch pension administrator APG with a place to invest €420 million and is thought to be the largest such deal in the asset class.

Campbell Lutyens continued to ramp up operations during the year, increasing its headcount to more than 100 worldwide including the hire of Gerald Cooper from UBS to co-lead secondaries efforts in North America. The firm is also understood to have begun working with Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Capital on a deal worth north of $2 billion toward the end of 2016. Impressive.

SPECIAL SITUATIONS/TURNAROUND FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Aurelius Equity Opportunities
2. Rutland Partners
3. OpCapita

Few can dispute that Aurelius Equity Opportunities has been one of the busiest special sits investors in Europe in the last year. 

In just the first nine months of 2016 the firm made six new investments, including acquiring the European assets of Office Depot which, with annual revenues of €2 billion, was the largest transaction in Aurelius’s history in terms of turnover.

It also pulled off some spectacular exits. These include the sale of denim manufacturer Tavex Europe, which generated a 9x return just one year after acquisition, and the sale of fidelis HR which delivered a whopping 40x.
Aurelius has also been building its resources. In the UK the firm expanded its investment team, bringing in Dan Simon and Freya Macken, as well as boosting its specialist operational taskforce with the appointments of Gavin Duke, Simon Brott and Ben Paice.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN AFRICA
1. LeapFrog Investments
2. Helios Investment Partners
3. Ethos Private Equity

It’s all change again, with profit-with-purpose investor LeapFrog Investments knocking last year’s winner Helios Investment Partners off the top spot.

LeapFrog has doubled in size in the last year, thanks to a $350 million separate account with Prudential and $200 million from the US government’s OPIC to seed its third fund, which is set to launch this year.
What’s more, the firm has branched out into the healthcare sector, planting its flag in the sand with the $22 million investment in Kenya’s GoodLife Pharmacy. 

The firm assembled a global team of eight specialists, co-led by Felix Olale, who joined the firm as a partner last year. Olale’s appointment was one of a number of key hires LeapFrog made last year, including bolstering its investor relations team with Xenia Loos, bringing in Karima Ola as partner, and appointing Linklaters head of private equity Stuart Bedford as general counsel.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN BENELUX
1. Gilde Buy Out Partners
2. 3i Group
3. Gilde Healthcare

The largest of the three Utrecht-based Gilde franchises had a busy year in 2016. It made the final investment from its €800 million fourth fund and began deploying its €1.1 billion Fund V, which closed in late 2015.

Among the highlights of the year for the group, which has been investing in the Benelux mid-market for around 35 years, was the take-private of Ten Cate, a transaction of close to €1 billion which took nearly a year to close. The Netherlands-headquartered company spans various areas of the technical textiles and composite materials universe, suppling materials to sectors ranging from aerospace to synthetic grass sports stadia.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN CEE
1. Mid Europa Partners
2. Abris Capital Partners
3. Enterprise Investors

A duo of high profile deals – both hotly contested – have helped Mid Europa Partners, one of Central and Eastern Europe’s most recognisable brands in private equity, retain its crown as Firm of the Year in the region.

First was the Allegro deal in October, in which Mid Europa teamed up with Cinven and Permira to buy “the eBay of Poland” for $3.25 billion. Then in November the firm broke ground by executing the largest private equity deal in Romanian history, buying supermarket chain Profi for €533 million from Enterprise Investors. Processes for both deals saw Mid Europa beat rival bids from a roll call of global blue-chip private equity managers, suggesting that the firm’s local knowledge and market longevity – it was established nearly 20 years ago – are giving it a valuable competitive edge.

Earlier in the year, the firm managed something else that marks it out as a cut above: an orderly transition from founder and managing partner Thierry Baudon to the next generation of leadership, co-managing partners Robert Knorr and Matthew Strassberg.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN FRANCE
1. Ardian
2. Apax France
3. Cinven

Dominique Senequier’s Ardian proved that despite striving for world domination across a whole swathe of strategies, it still has its finger on the pulse in its home market, stealing the top spot from fellow French native PAI Partners.
As well as raising more than $10 billion for secondaries, $3.2 billion for primary funds of funds investments and €2.65 billion for infrastructure, Ardian raised €4.5 billion for LBO Fund VI, its latest mid-cap buyout fund, in just four months.

Ardian made a whole raft of investments, bolt-ons and portfolio company sales in France across a range of strategies during 2016, including acquiring a majority stake in quality management and inspection services business Trigo from IK Investment Partners and offloading a majority stake in chemicals group Novacap.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN GERMANY
1. Equistone Partners Europe
2. SwanCap
3. Deutsche Beteiligungs

Equistone Partners Europe recorded a prolific year in deals in 2016, continuing to deploy capital from its €2 billion Fund V. The firm made 11 investments across the UK, French, German and Swiss markets in the first three quarters of 2016, and generated returns of €1.8 billion for its investors. Equistone made numerous successful exits in 2016 including a €400 million deal on one of its eight-year-old investments. The firm made a series of 18 bolt-on transactions last year including for OASE, Unither Pharmaceuticals and Sportgroup. 

Equistone welcomed a team of new investment professionals with the appointments of Tristan Manuel, Richard Briault-Hutter, Roman Hegglin and Taha Hasan, expanding the team to 37. In addition, the firm appointed Steven Whitaker as chief operating officer. In November 2016 Equistone celebrated the fifth anniversary of its spin-out from Barclays, ahead of which the London-based team moved to a new office, reflecting the firm’s ongoing growth.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN IBERIA
1. Black Toro Capital
2. CVC Capital Partners
3. Portobello Capital

Black Toro Capital has spotted a gap in the Spanish market. Making both debt and equity investments, the firm targets SMEs which have been abandoned by the traditional financial system. Many of these companies are owned by banks, which are seeking to reduce their exposure to such businesses as Spain’s financial sector undergoes an extensive restructuring in the wake of the 2008 crisis.

This clearly resonates with investors. The firm is gearing up to close its second vehicle on €235 million, having secured the majority of its commitments from US-based LPs.

As this issue went to press, Black Toro Capital II was about to seal its fifth deal, taking the fund up to 60 percent committed within just the first year of a three-year investment period. With portfolio companies such as shoe retailer Marypaz and pharmaceutical manufacturing company Antibióticos de León spread across the length and breadth of the country, Black Toro employs more than 3,000 people.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN ITALY
1. Investindustrial
2. Charterhouse Capital Partners
3. Wise SGR

Investindustrial could point to 2016 as the year that it cemented its position as the dominant firm in Southern Europe. The firm started the year with the close of Fund VI on €2 billion, the largest fund ever to focus on the region, after just three months in market.

Investindustrial, which is headquartered in London, also sealed two notable Italian deals which no doubt helped its cause. In April it agreed with the Catelli family to buy 60 percent of Artsana Group, a holding company for a range of brands, including childcare brand Chicco. One month later the firm agreed to merge Italian portfolio company Polynt, a specialty chemicals business, with Reichhold, a US company owned by US private equity firm Black Diamond Capital.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN MENA
1. The Abraaj Group
2. Actis
3. Investcorp

As it enters its 15th year since it was established by Arif Naqvi, you could say Dubai-headquartered Abraaj is mischaracterised as a MENA firm, given the geographic extent of its footprint. The firm now has 20 offices investing across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Two way-markers in 2016 illustrate the increasing diversity and reach of the firm. It closed its first Turkey-focused fund on $526 million at a time when the country’s political machinations were threatening to derail its remarkable economic growth story.

It also moved closer to the $1 billion target for its “Growth Markets Health Fund”, which will invest predominantly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and target social impact as well as financial returns.

Employees say Naqvi has also imbued a sense of responsibility and citizenship in the DNA of the firm; adding to his philanthropic commitments, in July he joined the “B-team”, a working group with aims to foster sustainable business practices.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN THE NORDICS
1. EQT
2. Nordic Capital
3. Altor

EQT may be well on its way to becoming the “Swedish Blackstone”, having diversified among asset classes, strategies and geographies to touch all corners of the globe, but the Stockholm-headquartered firm has not abandoned its roots.

For the second year in a row, Thomas von Koch’s firm took the crown in the Nordic region, impressing the industry not only with its fundraising and deal-making prowess but with its unshakeable goal of future-proofing businesses, particularly pertinent in Northern Europe, where investing responsibly is more than just talk.

EQT has brought on “disruptive” technology experts both to work with its newly-funded venture platform and to turbo-charge the business models of its mature portfolio companies and, crucially, the firm itself.

On the deal side, EQT sealed full or partial exits for four Nordic businesses, including Operational Excellence Award winner Atos Medical, and completed the public-to-private of software business IFS.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN SWITZERLAND
1. Capvis Equity Partners
2. Partners Group
3. LGT Capital Partners

Capvis had a strong year in 2016 making a series of acquisitions from its most recent fund Capvis Equity IV LP. It bought German industrials firm Hennecke Group in April and took a majority stake in Italian cosmetics business Gotha Cosmetics in September.

The deal signalled Capvis’s emphasis on growth stage investment and the Hennecke acquisition showed its willingness to invest in a market-leading firm. The Capvis funds also divested three companies including the partial exit of valve maker VAT Group AG following its successful IPO on the SIX Swiss Exchange in April.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN TURKEY
1. Bridgepoint
2. The Abraaj Group
3. Turkven

Bridgepoint, a European mid-market powerhouse, has captured the vote from some venerable local and regional specialists to be crowned our first Firm of the Year in Turkey.]

The firm, which has a small team in Istanbul, rode to victory on the back of its acquisition of Peyman, a Turkish producer of dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Details of the deal were not disclosed, but it was understood to be at the smaller end of Bridgepoint’s typical bite size. 

The deal taps into a wellness trend that has been driven in Turkey by a ban on unhealthy snacks in schools. The company is a leader in its field – it was the first snack producer to introduce resalable bags in Turkey – and exports to more than 30 countries.

FIRM OF THE YEAR IN THE UK
1. 3i Group
2. Inflexion Private Equity
3. ECI Partners

You could say the comeback is complete. The oldest brand in private equity, which had lost its way in the run-up to the financial crisis, has slimmed down and sharpened its focused, with good effect.

In the six months to September 2016 – when the most recent results were issued – the firm realised £654 million ($819 million; €769 million) in proceeds from its private equity portfolio at an average money multiple of 2.3x. For the past three years it has generated on average £750 million in cash proceeds a year.

Among the firm’s 2016 highlights was the sale of Mayborn Group, owner of the Tommee Tippee childcare brand, to Chinese consumer products organisation Jahwa United, generating a 3.5x return.

FUND OF FUNDS MANAGER OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. HarbourVest Partners
2. LGT Capital Partners
3. SwanCap

Boston-headquartered HarbourVest Partners has been active in Europe since the 1980s and last year saw it reaffirm its commitment to London as a financial centre, in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

“HarbourVest established an office in London in 1990, two years before the Maastricht Treaty was signed and three years before it became effective and the EU was formed,” it said following the vote.

As well as its more storied secondaries activities – notably its pursuit of SVG Capital – the firm put more than half a billion dollars to work in primary fund commitments in Europe during 2016, backing both established in-demand managers, like Advent International, Inflexion and Index Ventures, as well new European franchises, such as H2 Equity Partners and Marlin Equity Partners.

PLACEMENT AGENT OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. Campbell Lutyens
2. MVision
3. Rede Partners

London-headquartered Campbell Lutyens has retained its title as Placement Agent of the Year in Europe for the fifth year in a row. The firm has made some significant additions to its global footprint – it now has more than 100 staff across its four offices worldwide – but it has also remained dominant on its European home turf, raising more than $5 billion in commitments for Europe-focused private equity managers. This doubles if infrastructure is included.

Among the highlights in 2016 was the rapid fundraise of Deutsche Beteiligungs’ seventh flagship fund, which closed in July with total commitments of €1 billion. The process was wrapped up in less than three months, with Campbell Lutyens acting as sole global placement agent. The firm also assisted IK Investment Partners in moving into the small-cap space, helping the firm hit its €277 million hard-cap. The firm capped the year with a final close for pan-Nordic mid-market FSN Capital at its hard cap of SKr9.62 billion ($1.1 billion; €1 billion).

LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE (FUND FORMATION)
1. Clifford Chance
2. Proskauer
3. Debevoise & Plimpton

Proving its expertise really does have a global reach, Clifford Chance, where Nigel Hatfield leads the private funds group, has scooped two awards in the Europe categories. Among others, the firm advised on the formation of Permira Credit Solutions Fund II, a pan-European private fund focused on a wide range of debt investments which is one of the first funds of its scope and size to be raised by a leading European private fund manager.

It also advised Equistone Partners on Equistone Partners Europe Fund IV (€1.5 billion) and Europe Fund V (€2 billion). Clifford Chance, which claims to have the largest geographical reach of any single law firm, focuses specifically on closed-ended private equity, real estate and infrastructure funds, while offering expertise on other types of private fund mandates.

LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE (TRANSACTIONS)
1. Clifford Chance
2. White & Case
3. Debevoise & Plimpton

Clifford Chance advises on complex cross-border transactions across a variety of investment strategies, including buyouts and growth capital transactions. Over the past year, notable counsel included advising Cinven, Permira and Mid Europa Partners on their $3.25 billion acquisition of Allegro Group, the largest online marketplace and non-food shopping destination in Poland.

It was also among a group of law firms to secure a lead role on National Grid’s sale of a 61 percent stake in its UK gas distribution business to a consortium of overseas investors, including Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, Allianz Capital Partners and Qatar Investment Authority. The deal valued the gas distribution business at £13.8 billion.

LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE (SECONDARIES)
1. Kirkland & Ellis
2. Proskauer
3. Debevoise & Plimpton

Kirkland & Ellis once again proved its worth in the secondaries category, adding the European Law Firm of the Year (Secondaries) to its victories elsewhere. It advised on a number of headline deals in the region, and was again peer nominated; among others the firm represented an investment team at a European bank over their spin-out from the bank and simultaneous acquisition of the private equity investment portfolio managed by the team, and Partners Group (together with the US team) in transactions in excess of €1 billion.

“In my view, to properly and effectively advise clients on these more complex transactions, a successful secondaries practice should include a cross-disciplinary team of lawyers, including fund formation lawyers, investment law regulatory lawyers, M&A lawyers, ERISA and tax specialists,” Michael Belsley, global practice leader, told PEI.

LENDER OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
1. EQT Credit
2. Intermediate Capital Group
3. GSO Partners

EQT Credit closed its first fund focused on direct lending to European mid-market companies in 2016, surpassing its €500 million target to reach €530 million, one of the factors behind its victory in the Lender of the Year in Europe award. The fund was launched in 2015 and has deployed around 60 percent of its capital across 10 deals in Europe.

Transactions included companies in the healthcare, industrial and telecommunications sectors in the Nordic region, Germany and the UK. It lends capital to support growth, acquisitions and refinancing. EQT also partnered with CVC Credit Partners on a £110 million ($137 million; €128 million) unitranche debt transaction. The borrower, Paymentsense, is a UK-based card processing company providing services to small and medium-sized businesses.