3i Group Closes New Growth Equity Fund

LONDON (Reuters) – Private equity investment firm 3i Group (III.L) said it has made its first investment from a new Growth Capital Fund as it looks to capitalise on a rise in companies seeking funding from minority investors to help them grow.

3i said on Thursday it has closed the new 1.2 billion-euro ($1.61 billion) fund for making investments across Europe, Asia and North America, raising about 400 million euros from external investors and contributing some 800 million euros from its own balance sheet.

The fund will target equity investments in the region of 25 million euros to 150 million euros. In the first investment made by the fund 3i said it has taken a 20 percent stake in European fruit juice producer Refresco for 84 million euros.

The group will also seed the fund with a selection of more mature minority investments valued at 339 million euros.

The new fund launch came as 3i said its overall portfolio performance is in line with expectations as it sees companies across its portfolio improve.

The group also said it has made further inroads into its debt burden, reducing net debt by 115 million pounds ($172.6 million) to 528 million pounds on Feb. 28. ($1=.7439 euros) ($1=.6664 pounds) (Reporting by Simon Meads; Editing by Greg Mahlich)