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IPE special report May 2018

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UK launches £500m venture capital fund to attract institutional money

The UK government has launched a £500m (€567.3m) venture capital programme as part of its stated aim of encouraging more pension funds to invest in small domestic companies.

The Managed Funds programme, launched by the government-funded British Business Bank, aims to increase long-term allocations through investing in “large scale” funds of funds.

In a statement, the bank said its project would “boost the amount of patient capital available to the UK’s high-growth businesses”. The programme aimed to generate a “commercial rate of return” from a diversified portfolio.

Managers interested in running money through the programme have been invited to pitch to the British Business Bank.

Catherine Lewis La Torre, CEO of the bank’s investment arm, British Business Investments, said the organisation’s earlier venture capital project – the UK Innovation Investment Fund – had backed a number of funds that had already invested in “a large number of outstanding UK businesses”.

“The £500m made available today under our new Managed Funds programme will build on this experience by attracting more institutional capital to the venture and growth asset class,” she added. “Through this Managed Funds programme, prospective investors will be able to access high quality venture and growth capital funds that will be investing in the success stories of tomorrow.”

In November last year Chancellor Philip Hammond, head of the UK’s Treasury department, announced plans to “unlock over £20bn” for “scale-up businesses”.

As part of this move, the Treasury said the Pensions Regulator would “clarify guidance on investments with long-term investment horizons”.

“With over £2trn in UK pension funds, small changes in investment have the potential to transform the supply of capital to innovative firms,” the chancellor’s report said.

However, JP Morgan Asset Management’s Sorca Kelly-Scholte previously warned that the mature nature of UK defined benefit funds – which still account for the majority of the country’s pension assets – meant that illiquid asset classes such as venture capital were not always suitable.

“Funds are maturing and they often think that private equity is not the right risk or liquidity profile for them,” Kelly-Scholte told IPE in November. “They don’t want to get into illiquid assets if they are going for buyout.”

Last month, the European Commission and the European Investment Fund launched a similar venture capital programme, VentureEU, with initial capital of €410m. The Commission said it expected to unlock €6.5bn of new investment in start-up and high-growth companies across Europe.

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