AMJPE chief bullish on UK regions

As Aberdeen Murray Johnstone shores up its presence in the North of England, John Diggines is looking forward to business in the regions picking up.

Aberdeen Murray Johnstone Private Equity (AMPJE), the small to mid market UK venture capital investor, is keeping up its focus on regional activity with the appointment of Francesco Santonin to head the firm’s Leeds offices.


Santonin joins the firm from Close Brothers Private Equity, where he was responsible for the firm’s investment activity in the north of England. He will take charge of AMJPE’s investment activity in Yorkshire and North East, reporting to Gary Tipper, head of investment for the firm’s English offices.


AMJPE managing director Jonathan Diggines described the appointment as important for the firm’s business in Leeds and the North as a whole, the regions where the firm does most of its business. “The regions account for the large majority of our £50m to £60m annual investment.”


AMJPE’s Manchester office, the first set up by the firm outside of its Scottish home market, was established in 1989, and since then the firm has continued to focus on regional investments. “A number of firms have attempted to position themselves as regional players, but this usually revolves around a London base,” said Diggines, who spends the bulk of his time at the firm’s Manchester offices. “We find that businesses feel more comfortable with firms that they are familiar with at a local level.”


The private equity landscape outside London has undergone a number of changes in recent years. 3i, which had been the principal regional operator in the UK, closed seven of its regional offices in late 2001, leaving AMPJE as the major regional player. Other firms with a regional network of offices include ISIS Capital, Gresham and Lloyds TSB. “In the 1980s, we would be competing with the likes of Apax and Schroders, but they have since repositioned their activities,” added Diggines. “We have stuck to our areas of expertise in providing assistance to small to medium sized businesses.”


Diggines believes that the current downturn will lead to an increase in MBO activity next year as businesses look to alternative financing in the light of decreased availability of credit from banks. “We think there will be increase in the number of buyout and turnaround opportunities in manufacturing and business services. This year has been quiet by recent standards although we expect activity to pick up next year.”