European News Roundup, June 2010

OSLOElectric Carmaker Raises $40M

Norwegian electric car maker Think has raised $40 million, bringing its total venture backing to $87 million, as it gears up to increase its product development and expand into the North American market.

U.S. venture capital firm Rockport Capital became the company’s second largest shareholder after the funding round. The largest shareholder remains Ener1, a battery maker that currently owns 31% of the company. Think says it is now fully funded and expects to be cash-flow positive in 2011.

Think will begin selling Think City in the United States in the fourth quarter. While the cars are currently manufactured in Finland, the company will start production in Indiana in the United States in 2011.

As part of the financing, Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer was named chairman of Think, replacing Reidar Langmo, who is now vice chairman. —A.D.BELFAST (NORTHERN IRELAND)Blackberry Partners Backs AePONA

Telecommunications software provider AePONA has received $10M in new financing from a consortium of venture capitalists led by Toronto VC fund Blackberry Partners Fund.

Managed by Canadian venture firm JLA Ventures and RBC Venture Partners, Blackberry Partners was joined by existing investors Amadeus Capital Partners, Polaris Ventures, Innovacom, Nordic Venture Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures.

As part of the funding, Blackberry Partners will help AePONA create relationships with the handset and application developer communities, which will allow it to combine the capabilities of the mobile device with the mobile network. —A.D.NEWCASTLE (U.K.)North East Fund Does First Deal

Finance for Business North East Fund (FBNEF), a £125M fund, has completed its first deal, investing £650,000 in Eutechnyx, a videogame developer.

Eutechnyx, based in Gateshead, also recently obtained £5.2 million from Dutch-based venture firm Prime Technology Ventures. Eutechnyx will use the funds to create new free-to-play games and will also set about doubling its North East workforce to 170.

FBNEF was launched in January with £62.5 million from the European Investment Bank, £44.25 million from the European Regional Development Fund 2007-2013 and £18.25 million from One North East.

The fund was established to invest in 850 regional companies and create 5,000 jobs over its five-year life time. NorthStar Equity Investors (NSEI), FBNEF’s Newcastle-based fund manager, made the investment on FBNEF’s behalf through its North East Accelerator Fund. So far, 500 businesses have sought support from the fund. —A.D.LONDONVC-Backed Gold Metal to Take over FulcrumFulcrum Pharma Plc (FULB.L) in April said it accepted a 11.6 million pounds ($17.69 million) takeover bid by a company funded by venture capital group SV Life Sciences and private equity firm Halifax Group, sending its shares up 66.7 percent.

The offer of 5.85 pence in cash for each Fulcrum share is at a 73% premium to Fulcrum’s close on April 27.

The acquirer, Gold Medal UK, was recently incorporated for this offer and is owned by Gold Medal US, which will be controlled by SV Life Sciences and Halifax. “We would like to make a number of identified acquisitions to add critical mass and expand our service offering,” Fulcrum Chairman Grahame Cook said in a statement. “We have been unable to achieve the required equity funding from the stock market, despite considerable efforts to do so.” —Shivani Singh, ReutersMUNICHNovusmodus Opens in Germany

As VC firms TVM Capital, Earlybird and Wellington Partners close up shop in Germany, Novusmodus—the £200 million clean technology and renewable energy investment arm of Ireland’s state-run electricity company ESB—is doing just the opposite. It recently opened an office in Munich.

Novusmodus has named Robert Schrimpff, formerly of TVM, a partner and head of the new office.

“Germany is one of the most important markets in the clean-tech landscape,” Schrimpff said in a statement. “The combination of enormous technological talent and relative dearth of domestic venture capital creates an environment of significant commercial potential.” —A.D.MOSCOWAOL Sells IM Service to DSTAOL has sold ICQ, Russia’s largest instant messaging platform, to Russian venture investor Digital Sky Technologies (DST) for $187.5 million.

Established in 1996 by Israel-based Mirabilis, ICQ was acquired in AOL’s 1998 purchase of Mirabilis for $400 million. ICQ is available in 16 languages, has more than 32 million new visitors per month and is available in Germany, the Czech Republic, Israel and Russia.

DST has been making a big play for technology companies over the past year, acquiring a stake in Facebook for $100 milion last August and buying a portion of game developer Zynga for $180 million in December. —A.D.AIX-EN-PROVENCE (FRANCE)Sofinnova Backs Inside Contactless

Parisian venture investor Sofinnova Partners has joined Beligian private equity firm Gimv and French sovereign wealth fund Fonds Stratégique d’Investissement (FSI) in providing €11.2 million in series D financing for Inside Contactless, a French producer of secure transaction chips.

The capital will be used to finance the company’s takeover of the SMS business of Atmel Corp.

Founded in 1995, Inside is said to have developed the first smart cards for payments, transit, secure access and identification applications. —A.D.LONDONVote on AIFM Directive Is Imminent

A committee of European MPs is preparing to vote on a controversial AIFM Directive that London-based fund managers believe will make it impossible for non-European funds to raise money in Europe.

Although Britain’s new government, led by new Prime Minister David Cameron, has tried to delay the vote, reports suggest that attempts to stall a decision have failed. The European Commission already delayed an earlier vote on the legislation in March when former Prime Minister Gordon Brown persuaded the European Union that there wasn’t sufficient time to reach a consensus.

Spain currently holds the E.U. presidency and its finance minister, Elena Salgado, told the Financial Times that there would be no further delays. “There is a very clear majority of countries that want to approve it,” she said. —A.D.