SWEDEN - Sjätte AP-fonden (AP6), the Swedish pension buffer fund, has entered into a "long-term partnership" with Atlas Design, to make it Europe's "leading fashion house for accessories".

The Sixth Swedish National Pension Fund - which invests in a selection of private equity funds and directly in small and medium-sized unlisted companies - has confirmed it will acquire a 24.5% stake in the family-owned business through a new issue of shares.

The investment is designed to finance Atlas Design AB's growth to become the leading fashion house in "hip" accessories, with a target turnover of SEK1.5bn (€161.3m) within five years.

Atlas Design is currently one of Sweden's leading brands in accessories, ties and shirts for both men and women, but the aim is to expand in the European market through both organic growth and acquisitions.

The focus will be on four "divisions":

Own brands - Atlas Design and Guthrie & Valentine; Brands under licence - Joop! Bugatti, Tiger of Sweden; Private labels A "verticalisation" aimed at strengthening the company's own brands The investment will come from the AP Partner Investments division at AP6, which invests in companies that "need to reinvent their business models in order to grow", offering them expertise in ownership and business development; long-term, committed and flexible capital; and corporate governance support.

Mats Augurell, responsible for AP Partner Investments, said: "In our estimation, Atlas Design has excellent prospects for taking market share both in Sweden and abroad. The company is well-run, the brand Atlas Design is strong and manufacturing under licence well-established and the company has a solid reputation."

Allan Ladow, chief executive and partner at Atlas Design, said the deal represents the "the biggest single investment in the company's 65-year history", and claimed the stake by AP6 would allow the firm to increase and take market share in all four division both domestically and internationally.

"In the Sixth AP Fund, we have acquired a committed partner and the structural and financial muscle that we need for this expansion," Ladow added.

In March, AP6 reported a total net profit of 13.1% in 2007, which increased the value of its fund capital to SEK19.6bn, and stated AP Partner Investments had completed its expansion phase and invested SEK1.5bn in 22 companies. (See earlier IPE story: AP6 and AP7 report positive returns)

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