European private equity manager Bridgepoint Capital has entered the Australian market with the appointment of a placement agent as its representative.

Bridgepoint has partnered with Allen, Allen & Partners, which was co-founded last year by Nicholas Allen, an experienced funds management marketer with various firms including Merrill Lynch, and Craig Gribble, former senior principal of Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity. The firm offers both capital advisory and fund placement services for Australia and New Zealand.

One of Bridgepoint’s co-founders, managing partner William Jackson (pictured), said the 25-year-old private equity specialist had had a relationship with Australia back to the 1990s when it worked with Gresham Partners and the team which spun out of that to form Ironbridge.

“We’ve had some historic investments in Australia,” he said from London last week. “I’m looking forward to some more.”

A number of Bridgepoint’s 70 transactions completed over the past 25 years also involved Australian subsidiaries, he said.

Jackson, who is next due to meet Australian super fund representatives and consultants in February, said he expected the firm to expand further in the Asia Pacific region over the next few years.

“There’s huge interest in emerging markets for good reason,” he said. “But there’s a real shortage of private equity groups there.”

He was very positive about European opportunities for investors, despite the economic gloom hanging over much of the region.

“Private equity always thrives during periods of change. Ten years ago, Europe produced one of the strongest ever vintage years (for private equity investors) even though GDP growth was very low… In Europe there is no question that you can buy quality on a good risk-adjusted basis.”

Jackson also pointed out that greater Europe was still the biggest economic area in the world, worth about US$16 trillion in total market capitalisation, compared withUS14 trillion for North America and US$9.5 trillion for China and Japan combined. Plus, investors could also gain exposure to the Asian region through European companies which had big trade links there.

“Private equity is about stock picking,” he said. “You have to be careful not to mix your macros with your micros.”

Bridgepoint covers six primary sectors: business services; consumer; financial services; health care, industrials; and media and technology.

The firm is staff owned and currently has about 165 people, of whom 100 are investment professionals, across 10 offices. It has raised more than 12 billion euro (A16 billion) in committed capital.

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