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Bridgepoint raises $4.4 bln for new buyout fund — Reuters

(Reuters) – European private equity firm Bridgepoint has raised 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) for its fifth buyout fund, exceeding its fundraising target by around 15 percent as investors allocate more money in search of higher returns.

Bridgepoint, whose businesses include the Pret A Manger sandwich chain, began fundraising less than a year ago with an original target of 3.5 billion euros, after raising 4.8 billion in 2008, it said on Monday.

After several tough years, buyout houses are finding it easier to fundraise, with rising valuations and an improved flow of sales of portfolio firms helping boost demand from yield-hungry investors at a time of record low interest rates.

Private equity funds globally raised $431 billion last year, according to research firm Preqin, up 13 percent on 2012 and marking the highest amount of capital secured in any year since the financial crisis.

Undeployed capital hit a record $1.2 trillion in 2014, according to market research firm Preqin.

Bridgepoint invests in mid-market European companies, valued at between 150 million and 600 million euros, such as ASK Italian and Zizzi restaurants, which it bought from Cinven in December.

“Strong demand from investors has meant that we have exceeded our original target as investors have identified the European middle market as a place where there are excellent investment opportunities,” William Jackson, Bridgepoint’s managing partner, said in a statement.

The private equity firm recently sold Swiss sports marketing firm Infront Sports & Media AG to China’s Dalian Wanda Group for 1.05 billion euros, having bought it for about 550 million including debt in 2011.

Bridgepoint said the fund had benefited from a significant re-commitment of existing investors, who put in on average 25 percent more than in the previous round. ($1 = 0.9201 euros)