BENELUX – Fundraising in the private equity market in Benelux, valued in billions of euros at its peak a few years ago, saw zero activity in 2003 a new report says.

“Traditionally Europe’s weakest region, no fundraising was completed in the Benelux countries in 2003,” the European Fundraising Review for 2004 said.

According to the report, the region raised 1.17 billion euros in 2000. This figure halved to 549 million euros in 2001 and slumped to 26 million euros in 2002.

Total fundraising across Europe, including the UK and Ireland, was 20.1 billion euros in 2003, compared to 24.8 billion euros a year earlier. The 2000 high was 40.9 billion euros.

“Pension funds were again the largest contributors to private equity vehicles, having accounted for 34% of all capital raised in 2003,” the report stated. “The next most active institutional types were banks and insurance companies, accounting for 15% and 13% respectively.”

“Never before has there been so much choice available to investors as they consider how to deploy their long-term capital into private equity,” said John Campbell of private equity firm Campbell Lutyens in the foreword to the report, citing the expansion of the European Union.

“At a time when private equity allocations are rising as a result both of capital form new entrants and further commitments by existing participants there is a growing awareness that this is a game which is played at the highest level only by the sophisticated,” Campbell added.

“Private equity is not a game for index players. It is a game which rewards deep and careful research and selection.”