3i to Open Offices In Two U.S. Cities –

LONDON – As part of a strategy to broaden its global investing, 3i, the largest private equity firm in the United Kingdom, is opening its first two offices in the United States.

The firm shortly plans to announce the launch of offices in Palo Alto, Calif., and the Boston area, both of which will focus on the telecommunication and information technology sectors, according to a source at 3i.

Patrick Sheehan, a director in 3i’s London office, will head the U.S. initiative. Mr. Sheehan, who declined comment for this article citing the pending announcement, has been instrumental in directing 3i’s technology investing in the U.K and continental Europe, according to one industry observer.

3i already has offices throughout continental Europe. The firm is seeking to expand into Asia as well – it has an office in Singapore and recently launched a joint venture with Industrial Bank of Japan Ltd. to raise a $200 million buyout fund that will target Japan.

The most recent U.S. deal by 3i – a $5 million investment in New York-based OpenShop Internet Software Inc. in April – reflects the firm’s recent initiatives to turn private equity into a more international game. OpenShop, which makes software that helps companies operate commercial Web sites, is a branch of the German conglomerate OpenShop Holding AG. 3i co-invested in the software company with the German firm tbg.

3i’s expansion into North America follows moves made by London-based Doughty Hanson & Co., which announced late last year it would open offices in New York and begin scouring the U.S. for buyout opportunities. 3i’s move also comes at a time when U.S. private equity firms are increasingly moving capital to Europe in search of less competitive markets.

3i is trying to expand in its home country as well. In March, the firm tried and subsequently failed to take over Electra Investment Trust, a British investment firm, with an offer of $2.025 billion.