Ontario Teachers Planning to Ramp-Up Buyouts

(Reuters) – The private capital arm of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, one of Canada’s largest investors, will likely ramp-up purchases of businesses in the next three or four years as it takes advantage of bargains.

Erol Uzumeri, head of private equity at the C$87.4 billion Teachers’ plan, said on Thursday the global economic slowdown that also plunged Canada into recession has provided once-in-a-lifetime buying opportunities.

“Over the next three to four years, very selectively, there will be great opportunity to buy great businesses, so I do believe our activity will increase,” Uzumeri told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the annual Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association conference in Calgary.

More than 500, mostly Canadian, investors are gathered in the financial capital of Canada’s oil patch this week to try to chart the course of private equity and venture capital investment in Canada as the nation suffers from the global economic slowdown.

For Uzumeri, large pension funds like Teachers are in a privileged position because they have the deep pockets and the long-term investment horizon to take advantage of opportunities.

“The next three or four years that are in front of us will be the best investment opportunity of my lifetime,” he said from the event in downtown Calgary.

The private capital and venture capital arm at Teachers’ manages close to C$10 billion and owns companies across the globe, with an emphasis on North America and Europe but also stretching into Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, India and China.

Teachers’ Private Capital only made one acquisition in all of last year, and has made none this year, but Uzumeri said that could soon change.

He said the fund managers are now looking at at least two potential acquisitions by portfolio companies they own.

Assets are becoming available that were not available or too expensive before the crisis, he said.

“This will be the time that you can buy really fantastic assets and for a pension fund like Teachers that holds onto assets for a long time, its absolutely a great, great time to buy.”

Teachers’ serves 284,000 active and retired Ontario teachers. (Reporting by Pav Jordan; Editing by Kim Coghill)