Permira expands in uncertain markets

In line with one of its sector focuses, the firm is opening a Californian office so its its telecoms, media and technology executives have a base in the heart of the US technology centre.

Permira, the global buyout firm, is hoping its sector focus and geographic reach will help it weather “challenging times”, according to its inaugural annual report. The firm is opening a West Coast US office in the second half of this year, following its push into Hong Kong in the first half.

Richard Sanders, who became a partner in 2006 in the firm’s London office, is leading the drive west into the historical heartland of US technology research and development.

Last week the firm said it was beefing up its New York office with the appointment of John Coyle, JPMorgan’s former global head of sponsor coverage.

Sanders is currently responsible for building Permira’s technology efforts globally. He has worked on a number of transactions including Freescale Semiconductor, Inmarsat, Intelsat and Wireless Information Network.

In its annual review, Permira’s co-managing partners Tom Lister and Kurt Björklund said the credit crunch had meant a “dramatic slowdown in activity, particularly in the US and Europe”.

But the duo said the firm’s global presence was a competitive advantage. This was “evident in the opportunities sourced in Asia, where the environment has been more supportive of investment activity since the summer”.

The firm invested in Galaxy Entertainment Group, a Macau casino operator, in November last year and in Arysta LifeScience, a Japanese agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals manufacturer, in March this year.

More offices will follow the 10 existing bases. The firm is recruiting for staff for an Indian outpost and market sources say it is trying to recruit an Austalian team. A spokesman for the firm said the expansion would be conservative and may not lead immediately to deals. He said it was two and a half years after the Tokyo office opened before a deal was struck.

The two managing partners said: “The outlook remains uncertain in both the financial markets and for the global economy.” They said their focus was on supporting portfolio company managers through more challenging times, while “our sector teams will also continue to look for new opportunities to invest in companies that will benefit from help in adapting to ever more competitive global markets”.

The firm has also strengthened its management team most notably revealing the appointment of Christopher Crozier, the former chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as its chief risk officer.

The spokesman said Crozier’s hire acknowledged the firm’s increased commitment to professionalise areas of its business that had been covered on a more ad hoc basis. Crozier’s responsibilities include compliance, regulation, conflicts of interest, insurance and litigation.