June 10, 2020 / 6:02 AM / a month ago

Swedish private equity firm EQT to increase French investments

PARIS, June 10 (Reuters) - Swedish private equity firm EQT aims to step up investments in France in areas such as healthcare and energy infrastructure as it sets up a base in Paris despite the coronavirus crisis, executives at the group said on Wednesday.

EQT, which has been expanding in regions from Asia to the United States, and opened a Milan office last year, is launching a French operation with several recruits from rival firms.

The group said in April that the pandemic and economic ructions could slow fundraising and delay asset sales, but is nonetheless looking at potential French deals.

“We’re starting to work on a few items that should materialise by year-end or next year, and which we think will be able to move ahead,” said Nicolas Brugere, a former partner at France’s PAI who will now run EQT’s French office.

The Swedish firm, which will also focus on real estate in France, plans to expand the 10-strong team, Brugere told Reuters.

EQT - with about 40 billion euros ($45 billion) in assets under management globally - invests heavily in infrastructure, including assets such as fibre-optic internet, hospitals and clean energy firms. Its private equity operations also focus additionally on areas such as software.

The group is unlikely to divert its efforts towards ailing companies in severe need of turnaround work, said Thomas Rajzbaum, a former Carlyle executive who now heads EQT’s French infrastructure operations.

“Distressing investing is not at the heart of our business. Most of the investments we’ve made or the ones we’re looking at have not suffered too much from the crisis,” Rajzbaum said.

EQT bought France’s Saur Group, which provides water supply and wastewater services, in 2018, and entered exclusive talks to buy Air Liquide’s disinfectant-making unit Schuelke in April. ($1 = 0.8818 euros) (Reporting by Sarah White and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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