Global private energy specialist First Reserve has broadened its investment scope with a $300m investment in barley-based ethanol production.

Corn has never been so controversial. Ethanol, a supposedly eco-friendly gas additive produced primarily from the fermentation of maize or sugar cane, has been blamed for skyrocketing food prices worldwide as corn growers in the US farm belt and sugar producers in the tropics divert more of their resources towards ethanol and less towards for-market products.

However, the fuel is still championed by many as an eco-friendly solution to rising petrol costs, and several US private equity firms including Centerbridge Partners and Braemer Energy Ventures have made major ethanol-related acquisitions in recent months.

Energy specialist First Reserve, which traditionally invests in companies related to the oil and natural gas industries, has joined the ethanol investment fray – but with a twist it believes may remedy some of biofuel's major drawbacks.

“Without being unduly pejorative, we are not invested in that industry for very good reason,” says First Reserve director Glen Payne. But there is an exception: First Reserve sees barley-based ethanol as another matter altogether.

Last month, the firm made a $300 million (€195 million) equity investment in Osage Bio Energy to construct the US' first barley-based ethanol production facilities. “The technology is very well understood,”Payne says.“It's not like we're taking any technology risk here.”

Barley ethanol, currently produced in several countries including Canada and Spain, competes for less land and food production than corn. Moreover, barley prices have not been affected by ethanol production as much as corn has, albeit much less barley is used for ethanol than corn.

“We have a cost advantage over every other form of ethanol produced in the US,” Payne says.

Osage Bio Energy's facilities will use regionally grown barley, reducing transportation costs incurred from relying on Midwestern producers.

Renewable energy from the combustion of the barley waste products, husks and hulls, will also be generated. The facilities will aspire to be self-sustainable and approximately 20 megawatts of excess energy from each facility will go back into the power grid.

First Reserve's $7.8 billion fund has the capacity to invest around 10 percent in renewable energies and the firm is considering increasing that allocation either in the present fund or in later efforts. In April, the firm purchased Gamesa Solar, a Spanish solar energy company, for €261 million. It also acquired Ener3, an Italian solar power plant construction company with the intention of merging the two. N

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Bessemer Venture Capital will sell three portfolio companies for a total of $1.25 billion (€788 million), according to a blog post from Bessemer partner David Cowan. Pharmaceutical and healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to acquire Bessemer-funded start-up Sirtris Pharmaceuticals for approximately $720 million. Meanwhile, Sony has agreed to acquire Bessemerand Sequoia Capital-funded digital technology company Gracenote for approximately $260 million. The Emeryville, California-based business will continue operating separately with its existing management team in place while developing new technologies. Fabless microprocessor company PA Semi, back by Bessemer,Venrock, Highland Capital and Focus Ventures, has reportedly agreed to be acquired by Apple. The deal is valued at approximately $278 million in cash.

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Apax Partners has agreed to a $1.4 billion (€885 million) take-private for healthcare software company TriZetto. The London-based private equity firm will pay $22.00 per share in cash, representing a 29 percent premium over TriZetto's 30-day average. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and The Regence Group, a conglomerate of BlueCross firms in the Pacific Northwest, have agreed to provided a portion of the funding for the transaction and will be equity investors in the new private company. Apax, which manages roughly $35 billion in funds, has been particularly proactive in the international healthcare sector, investing over $2.8 billion in the industry worldwide from 1989 to 2007. Newport Beachbased TriZetto specialises in offering core administrative software to healthcare providers and insurers.

GS Capital Partners (GSCP) and Myers Industries have agreed to terminate their $1 billion (€635 million) deal to take private the Ohio-based polymer manufacturer. The deal, struck in April 2007, consisted of $788 million in cash, or $22.50 per share, and debt assumption of approximately $276 million. In December, GSCP requested an extension of the deal's closing date to further evaluate Myers' exposure to certain industries. In return, GSCP agreed to make a non-refundable payment to Myers of the previously agreed $35 million termination fee. Myers' head of investor relations, Max Barton, said GSCP is not required to pay any additional fees for terminating the deal.

Dubai Government-backed investment firm Istithmar World has agreed to acquire a majority stake in US asset manager Gulf Stream Asset Management in an effort to capitalise on credit market turmoil. Under the agreement, Gulf Stream founder and chief executive Mark Mahoney and his team will continue to own the remainder of the company. No financial details were disclosed. The investment was made via Istithmar World's private equity and alternative investment arm Istithmar World Capital. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Gulf Stream currently manages approximately $3.8 billion (€2.4 billion) of corporate credit portfolios for global institutional investors. Istithmar World, formerly known as Istithmar, rebranded itself earlier this year as the group sought to diversify. The firm opened its first international office in Shanghai, China in November last year.