European News Briefs, February 2011


Sun Shines on Albion Joint Venture

Warming to the United Kingdom’s belated adoption of feed-in tariffs for green energy projects, Albion Ventures has invested £2 million ($3.2 million) as part of a joint venture with solar panel installer Engensa.

The investment will finance free installation of panels in homes in parts of Southeast England under the Street by Street solar program.

Engensa and Albion will collect premiums available from power companies for feeding green energy into the national electricity grid for 25 years after installing the panels.

Albion described its investment as part of a strategy “to invest in secured assets with long-term sustainable yields.”

The venture firm’s involvement follows a separate joint venture in July 2010 with TEG on a biogas plant in Scotland.


M8 Invests $4.2M in Mobile Maintenance

London-based m8 Capital has invested $4.2 million in Hamburg-based SCHAD, which develops technology that allows remote maintenance monitoring and control of plants and factories via mobile phones.

Founded in 2007, SCHAD developed the Extend 7000 technology, which frees engineers from centralized control centers, and already counts Ford, Lufthansa and Volkswagen as customers.

High-Tech Gründerfonds of Germany, which provided seed financing to SCHAD, joined the latest round that was led by m8.

SCHAD will use the investment to develop its product line and push global sales.

M8 Capital invests exclusively in mobile technology.


RJD Keeps it in the Family

Satisfied they have learned the ropes after a combined 29 years at the company, brothers Paul and Neil Graham have, together with RJD Partners, led the management buyout of Chemigraphic from their parents, Frank and Julia Graham, who founded the business in 1972 and are now retiring.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but London-based RJD confirms that its equity investment was between £5 million and £25 million ($8 million and $40 million), which is what it typically invests.

Paul and Neil will become sales and operations director of the company, while Bob Adams, who worked with them on the buyout, steps in as CEO.

Chemigraphic produces printed circuit boards from its Crawley factory and posted sales of £17 million ($27 million) in the previous financial year.


Fresh interest in cancer drug developer

Cancer vaccine developer VAXIMM has raised CHF7.8 million ($8.1 million) from new and existing investors.

The Swiss biotech company attracted new investors BioMedPartners, Merck Serono Ventures and Denmark’s Sunstone Capital to the round, which will finance phase I clinical testing of the company’s tumor vaccine.

“The funds will allow us to test this innovative and promising concept for the first time in patients suffering from cancer,” said Heinz Lubenau, general manager of VAXIMM’s German subsidiary.

Existing shareholders BB Biotech Ventures, based in Guernsey, and pharmaceutical giant Merck, both of which supported the launch of VAXIMM as a joint venture in 2008, also contributed to the round.


Atlas, Octopus Back Zoopla to Fund Marketing Drive

Property information website plans to build on a maiden TV advertising campaign after raising £3.3 million ($5.2 million) to expand its marketing efforts.

Existing shareholders Boston-based Atlas Venture and London-based Octopus invested a combined £1.75 million ($2.8 million) of equity financing to the round, while Silicon Valley Bank provided £1.5 million ($2.4 million) in debt.

Zoopla provides leads to estate agents and buyers, and also allows homeowners to generate current market valuations for their properties.

Founded three years ago, Zoopla now boasts 5 million visitors per month, placing it among the United Kingdom’s top three property websites.


State Fund Invests in Danish Biogas Converter

Danish energy conversion company TK Energi has received DKK15 million ($2.7 million) from the Danish Growth Fund (Vækstfonden).

TK will use the investment to promote sales of its technology to convert biomass waste into gas suitable for power stations or biofuel.

“TK Energi has a product that has proven its worth outside the lab. The challenge now lies in gaining more visibility and implementing the first projects in-house at the major stations,” Vækstfonden Partner Bjarne Henning Jensen in a statement.

Outside Denmark, TK has installed its systems in two power plants in the United States and said that it will focus on overseas customers in the future.


Quest, Capricorn Seek Merger

Belgian venture funds Quest Management and Capricorn Venture Partners intend to merge as the firms seek to cope with the European Union’s new Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM) directive.

Under the merger, Capricorn, which held a first, €42 million ($56 million) close of its third fund, Capricorn Health-tech, in December, would acquire the activities, personnel, assets and liabilities of Quest. The partnership, subject to regulatory and shareholder approval, would add Quest’s listed company experience to Capricorn’s venture focus on growth technology businesses.

While Quest manages unlisted cleantech and health care companies in addition to its quoted assets, Capricorn would require a license for asset management and investment advice for the merger to proceed.

AIFM comes into effect this year, but critics have argued that its one-size-fits-all application is ill-suited to small venture operations.


Oobelisk Secures Pillar of Funding from BaltCap

Baltic private equity firm BaltCap has taken a majority stake in media startup Oobelisk.

The firm, investing under the European Investment Fund’s JEREMIE initiative, believes that Latvia-based Oobelisk can become a leading provider of corporate media solutions, such as audio-visual reports and interactive presentations, in the Baltic and Eastern European region.

“The key idea behind Oobelisk is changing the old business model of media production companies and working with clients in cooperation forms new to the market,” said Kristaps Petersons, chairman of the company.

BaltCap spun out of Finland’s CapMan in 2007 and currently manages a €63 million ($84 million) private equity fund.


Ultra Fog Sale Provides Exit for Industrifonden

Italian company CATEF bought Swedish sprinkler company Ultra Fog, providing a return for venture investor Industrifonden.

The purchase price was not disclosed.

Industrifonden’s exit follows 12 years’ involvement with Gothenburg, Sweden-based Ultra Fog, which makes high-pressure sprinkler systems to combat fires with water fog.

The Swedish venture firm manages funds worth SEK3 billion ($450 million), half of which is invested.

CATEF, based in Viareggio, Italy, specializes in marine fire-fighting equipment.


RCapital Supports Steel Turnaround

Distressed company investor RCapital has invested desperately needed working capital into steel fabricator S. Robinson & Sons via a 100% equity purchase.

Robinson, which employs 200, had been seeking a buyer for several years following the post-2007 property crash, which saw sales drop from £43 million to £29 million ($68 million to $56 million).

“Steel fabrication is showing clear signs of recovery and the capital injection from RCapital will help sustain a rapid turnaround,” Jamie Constable, CEO at RCapital, said in a statement.

As part of the takeover, RCapital has parachuted in Matt Swan, a former senior manager at construction group McAlpine, to chair the Robinson board.

Swan will work with the company’s existing management team.


HgCapital Rides Nordisk Winds

Renewables investor HgCapital has again partnered with Nordisk Vindkraft to develop an onshore wind farm in Sweden.

The investment from HgCapital will support the construction of the Åmliden wind farm in Malå, located in Northern Sweden.

The size of the fund’s investment in the wind farms was not disclosed. The London-based private equity firm has also arranged 17-year project financing underwritten by Commerzbank.

Åmliden lies close to the 44MW Ytterberg wind farm, currently being developed by Nordisk and sold to HgCapital in August 2010.

Both wind farms should be fully operational by the end of 2012, when they will provide electricity for 50,000 homes.

HgCapital Renewable Power Partners holds controlling interests in 15 wind farms.