EUROPE - Investment in European private equity fell last year, according to the European Venture Capital Association but there was capital growth and an increase in smaller equity-centric buyouts - a trend apparently ongoing as Aberdeen's private equity team has bought out its private equity arm.

Data presented by the EVCA shows investment in private equity fell by 28% in 2008 to €54bn, driven largely by a fall in large buyouts, yet "early stage venture capital investment" continued to attract attention and money as there was a 15% increase in the number of transactions and a 7% growth in the value of seed-stage and start-up companies receiving finance.

This latest research came at the same time as it was announced Aberdeen Asset Management's private equity team has bought out its operation to create Maven Capital Partners LLP.

Bill Nixon, current head of investment at Aberdeen Asset Managers Private Equity, has led the buyout with senior executives Andrew Craig, Jock Gardiner, Stella Panu, Bill Kennedy and Andrew Ferguson.

The new operation includes the full back-office team which currently supports the Aberdeen and other third-party client funds but has moved to Maven even though the new firm will manage funds on Aberdeen's behalf as well as seven existing Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) worth £45m (€52.9m).

According to EVCA, small- to medium-sized enterprises accounted for 81% of deals, up from 77% in 2007 - a significant number as more than 5,400 European companies received private equity funding last year.

"The resilience of early-stage venture capital market is encouraging news for the long-term health of Europe's young innovative companies," said Javier Echarri, EVCA secretary-general.

Despite the economic crisis, private equity investments raised €79bn in 2008, which is just €2bn less than in 2007 when conditions fared better, though funding from banks and capital markets obviously dried up in the credit crunch.

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