Europe Becoming More Attractive to Private Equity Investors

A map of Europe.

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As economies across Europe started to escape their multi-year slump, private equity and venture capital funders began to see opportunities for investment. It turns out that their optimism was well placed.

In a 2016 New York Times interview, PE firm General Atlantic’s CEO, Bill E. Ford, said that there was already starting to be a “real turning of the tide” in terms of the investment environment, with a significant valuation reset in the public markets.

“That’s likely to follow through to the private markets,” Ford said. “I think we’re in the early stages of the private market revaluation. It will take on the order of six to 12 months to take hold.”

It looks like Ford was right.

According to a recent Financial Times article, in 2016, private equity fundraising across Europe hit its highest level since 2008, with a whopping €74.5 billion (about $89 billion U.S.) raised—a 37 percent year-on-year increase. PE investment in European companies is also strong: €53.7 billion (more than $64 billion U.S.) were invested last year. Nearly 6,000 companies across the continent benefited from those investments.

“This data demonstrates high investor confidence in European private equity, in an otherwise low-yield global investment environment,” said Michael Collins, Chief Executive of Invest Europe. “All European economies are now growing and investors value the proven ability of European fund managers to find attractive investment opportunities across sectors and geographies.”

Invest Europe isn’t the only group seeing the benefits of investing in Europe.

According to Graham Elton of Bain Insights, private equity investments in developed Europe have performed as well as, or better than, those in the U.S. The most recent five-year net internal rate of return for PE investments was 12.5 percent in developed Europe versus 11.6 percent for the U.S.

Elton said that even if on the surface Europe appears less attractive than the U.S. due to structural challenges inherent in the EU and economic issues like high unemployment rates in some nations, the region still offers great potential.

“Western Europe has more large-scale companies per unit of GDP than many other parts of the world,” Elton wrote. “Most of its countries rank relatively high on indexes measuring attractive conditions for investment.”

As hedge funds lose their appeal and U.S. and European investors look for profits in an environment with record low interest rates, PE firms like General Atlantic are finding Europe an attractive investment environment.

“Over 40 percent of capital raised by European private equity last year came from investors outside of Europe,” said Collins, “while a third of investments made into companies were cross-border.”

Not only that, but European markets have long offered an advantage to investors who have local knowledge and relationships cultivated through a local presence.

That may be one reason why General Atlantic recently hired former AXA CEO Henri de Castries to help advise it on European investment opportunities.

“With a distinguished career leading one of Europe’s most prominent financial institutions, Henri’s wealth of experience as a global business leader will be an important and valuable addition to both General Atlantic and our global portfolio companies,” Ford said.

All in all, it looks like European companies are becoming an increasingly attractive investment opportunity for the private equity and venture capital sectors.

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The Business of Arranged Marriages: Matrimony.com a Huge Success in India

An Indian couple joins hands for their wedding ceremony. Her hands and arms are decorated in henna and jewelry.

An Indian bride and groom join hands in a traditional ritual.
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In the U.S. and much of Europe, apps and websites such as Tinder, OkCupid, and Match.com dominate the online dating market. But in other parts of the world, that’s not the case. Take India, for example.

Statistics gathered from media analytics company comScore puts Matrimony.com as India’s most popular matchmaking website based on total amount of visitors. Matrimony.com—which operates subdomains BharatMatrimony.com, CommunityMatrimony,com, and EliteMatrimony.com—caters to those looking to get married, not those looking to simply date.

“India is a strong matrimony market,” says Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO of Matrimony.com. “We have been tracking data since 2006, and since then, we have had 26 million users of our sites.”

According to Scroll.in, the number of profiles listed on Matrimony.com has increased by 22% from last year. The company’s subdomains are also performing well. Scroll.in reports that Bharatmatrimony.com’s mobile app has had five million downloads since its initial launch in 2011.

Just recently, the company went public with the goal of raising over Rs 500 crore ($78.3 million). MoneyControl.com reports that on the last day of trading, the company’s IPO was oversubscribed 4.41 times. The company received bids for 1,24,09,980 shares, but only 28,11,280 were available. For founder and CEO Murugavel Janakirama, this is the best-case scenario.

“We are indeed overwhelmed by the response to the IPO, and I would like to thank the public and all our investors for reposing confidence in the positive and unique story of Matrimony.com,” said Janakiraman. “I also take this opportunity to thank our associates, millions of our members and partners who supported us in the successful journey of 17 years. I’m confident that together we will deliver value for all stakeholders in the years to come.”

According to MoneyControl.com, the funds will go towards advertising, marketing, repayment of overdraft facilities, the purchase of additional offices, and general corporate purposes. Thus far, the company’s expansion plan is working in their favor.

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Triple Trouble: Three Hurricanes Form in the Atlantic

Three hurricanes, as shown from space, approach Florida.

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As if the world hasn’t suffered enough natural disasters lately, a new threat has emerged: three hurricanes (two of which are classified as Category 4 storms) are expected to make landfall this weekend.

One of the storms, Hurricane Irma, already ravaged parts of the northern Leeward Islands and the Caribbean. The Category 4 storm is now headed for Florida and is expected to make landfall early Sunday morning.

Right behind Hurricane Irma is Hurricane Jose, another Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 mph. Today, a hurricane watch was issued for the Leeward Islands and the Caribbean—islands that are still trying to recover from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma.

Then there’s Hurricane Katia, which is headed towards Mexico. Katia has recorded wind speeds of up to 100 mph. Mexico, keep in mind, was just rocked with an 8.1 magnitude earthquake.

Eric Blake, a scientist at the National Hurricane Center, was dumbfounded upon seeing three hurricanes simultaneously form in the Atlantic.

“Never seen anything like this in the modern record,” Blake wrote on
Twitter. “Three separate hurricane watches at once for the Atlantic? Unparalleled here and totally ridiculous given Irma.”

But even though the phenomenon is rare, it’s not unheard of. The last time there were three hurricanes simultaneously brewing in the Atlantic was 2010.

However, Blake points out that this time around, things are different. In 2010, Hurricanes Karl, Igor, and Julia were “nowhere near land.”

“Julia was nowhere near land. Never a threat. Irma likely to do 100 times more damage than Igor/Karl,” Blake stated.

Meanwhile, Florida’s highways are jammed as a result of mandatory evacuations. ABC News reports that at least 1.3 million Floridians are under mandatory evacuation due to Hurricane Irma.

For those in the Leeward Islands and the Caribbean, escaping won’t be quite so easy, given that the only route of escape is via boat or airplane. For those that aren’t able to evacuate, experts recommend boarding up all windows and using sandbag barriers to protect homes.

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Orphaned Children At Risk After Sierra Leone Mudslides

Children orphaned in the Sierra Leone mudslides are at risk of being exploited, but aid groups are working to make sure that doesn't happen.

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On August 14, massive mudslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city, killed almost 500 people. Worse yet, there are 600 people still missing, and hope is shrinking that they will be found alive.

This has left thousands of the city’s children in a precarious position. They have lost one or both parents in the mudslides and have nowhere to go because their homes have been destroyed. The West African country’s government and the nonprofits that have come to Freetown to offer humanitarian aid now need to figure out how to make things as normal as possible.

The mudslides came in the wake of an Ebola outbreak two years ago that decimated families across Sierra Leone.

“It’s a real knock for the country so soon after Ebola,” said John James, a UNICEF spokesman in Sierra Leone. “We didn’t expect to hear the ambulance sirens and see people in biohazard suits again in the streets of Freetown.”

James added that Sierra Leone has a young population and these two humanitarian tragedies will have an impact on the lives of its children and adolescents for decades. UNICEF and other organizations are working hard to trace the extended families of orphaned children and work to ensure that they will be successfully integrated into those families.

Other aid groups are working to keep the orphaned children from being further traumatized by people who would take advantage of them.

“We are seeing children who are separated from family members, children who have been orphans, they have lost all of their siblings and their parents and they are especially vulnerable right now,” said Haley Clark, a trauma care and protection specialist for World Hope International.

It wouldn’t be the first time Sierra Leone’s children have been exploited.

“We saw cases like this during the Ebola time of where people will come in, they say they want to care for a child and so they take them into their home and they exploit them. So we are seeing this as a situation that’s ripe for that kind of exploitation and we want to prevent it,” said Clark.

According to UNICEF, the government is concentrating on providing relief items to survivors, while aid groups are helping to trace families to see if the young children may still have living relatives.

Turkey, the UK, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates have pledged to send aid, including clean water and medicine. As of August 24, there is no word on whether the United States is planning to send aid to the stricken nation.

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Mark Zuckerberg is Assembling a Team Capable of Winning a 2020 Presidential Campaign

Mark Zuckerberg may just be assembling a team that could forecast a 2020 presidential run.

Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a 2011 press conference. Photo: Frederic Legrand – COMEO / Shutterstock.com

Within the past year, there’s been a lot of speculation that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is running for president in 2020. However, there’s been little to no evidence to support that conjecture… until now.

According to a recent report from Politico, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, have hired Democratic pollster Joel Benenson as a consultant for their charitable investment company, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Benenson has quite the political background. Not only did he serve as a top adviser to President Barack Obama, but he was also the chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Now, to be fair, on its own, that isn’t enough to raise any alarms. But couple that with the fact that Zuckerberg has hired numerous other political pundits, and it’s starting to look like he’s assembling a team of experts for a 2020 presidential campaign.

Take, for example, Ken Mehlman.

In January 2017, Mehlman was appointed head of the initiative’s policy advisory board. It just so happens that Mehlman also boasts an impressive political career: Not only did he manage President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, but he’s also the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Starting to see the pattern?

Then there’s David Plouffe, President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign manager. Plouffe was hired to lead the initiative’s policy and advocacy efforts right around the same time Ken Mehlman was brought on.

And if you’re still not convinced, there’s also Charles Ommanney, Zuckerberg’s personal photographer who was also the photographer for Bush and Obama’s presidential campaigns. Quite the coincidence, isn’t it?

While the Facebook CEO has refuted allegations that he’s running for president, that’s not to say he’s being truthful. As GQ points out: “Zuckerberg denies running for president like someone who’s running for president.”

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