21 Centrale nears E125m target

The French unit of Italian private equity firm 21 Investimenti is close to announcing a final close of its second expansion capital fund.

21 Centrale Partners, the French private equity business owned by Italian private equity firm 21 Investimenti, is close to holding a final close of 21 Développement 2, the unit’s second fund.

The firm is expected to reach the fund’s initial target of E125m, and may raise as much as E150m. Invested institutions include the European Investment Fund, which has agreed to provide up E15m to the fund, 21 Gruppo, which provided a E25m commitment, Crédit Agricole Asset Management, MAAF, CCR Actions and Unicredito.

Fundraising is being coordinated by Triago, the Paris-based placement specialist, which in 1998 and 1999 helped raise the group's first development capital fund.

21 Développement 2 will follow the same investment strategy of its predecessor. The firm looks to invest in minority stakes of no more than 40 per cent, although the firm will partner with other firms for larger transactions.

Yesterday 21 Central Partners announced its third investment from the fund, backing a management buyout of Mecatherm, a French industrial furnace manufacturer. In keeping with its strategy of taking minority stakes in expanding companies, 21 Centrale took a 39 per cent stake in the acquisition vehicle, the remainder being taken by fellow French firm, Astorg Partners.

“We think we are in a good part of the market,” said Gérard Pluvinet, one of the founders of 21 Centrale. “Many French firms are raising funds to invest in majority interests and buyouts, but we have found that many companies are looking for expansion capital without having to give up a majority interest in their businesses.”

The group is led by Gérard Pluvinet, Henri Despointes and François Barbier, who have been working together for the past 15 years.

The fund, which has a FCPR structure, is being advised by Salans, Hertzfeld & Heilbronn, a Paris-based law firm and private equity specialist.