PE Week Wire — Friday 3/12

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Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., a Shanghai, China-based chipmaker, has raised over $1.7 billion via an initial public offering of American Depository Shares. The company yesterday priced over 97 million ADS at $17.50 per share (high end of its $15.50-$17.50 per share offering range), and on March 17 will begin trading on the NYSE under ticker symbol SMI. The company previously had received VC backing from investors like H&Q Asia Pacific, Walden International and Motorola. www.smics.com

ARCH Venture Partners has wrapped up fund-raising on its sixth fund, after having reached its $350 million target. The Chicago-based firm will continue to focus of seed-stage and early-stage technology companies emanating from universities, national labs and corporate research labs. Other ARCH Venture Partners offices can be found in Seattle, Austin, New York and Albuquerque. Its previous fund was capped at $380 million, while the new vehicle held a $75 million dry close in the spring of 2003. www.archventure.com


VaxInnate Corp., a New Haven, Conn.-based vaccine maker focused on infectious diseases and cancer, announced yesterday that it has raised $23.1 million in Series B funding. New investors included HealthCare Ventures, Oxford Bioscience Partners and MedImmune Ventures, while CHL Medical Partners also participated. The deal officially closed in 2003. In other VaxInnate news, the company has named Carlo Russo as president and CEO. He most recently served as executive director and head of the global strategic research development group at Merck Research Labs. www.vaxinnate.com


IatroQuest Corp., a Montreal, Canada-based developer of biosensing technologies, has received an undisclosed amount of strategic funding from In-Q-Tel, a non-profit VC group funded by the Central Intelligence Agency. www.iatroquest.com

Bear Stearns Merchant Banking has agreed to acquire Aearo Corp. from Vestar Capital Partners for $385 million, including assumed debt of around $210 million. The deal is expected to close in early April. Aearo is an Indianapolis-based provider of specialty composite materials for the transportation and precision electronics markets, and also develops personal protection equipment.

The European Commission has approved BC Partners’ proposed £662 million acquisition of UK home heating company Baxi Group Ltd. from Candover Investments. www.baxi.com

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) has agreed to acquire TruLogica Inc., a Dallas–based provider of IT user-provisioning software. Financial terms were not disclosed. TruLogica was founded in 2001, and had received $3.8 million in Series A funding from Sevin Rosen Funds and Vortex Corporate Development Fund. www.trulogica.com

Blue Nile Inc., a Seattle-based online retailer of diamonds and other fine jewelry, has filed to raise $75 million via an IPO of common stock on the Nasdaq under proposed ticker symbol NILE. The company has raised around $52 million in VC funding since its 1996 inception, with significant shareholders including Bessemer Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Vulcan Ventures and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. www.bluenile.com

Greenhill & Co., a New York-based investment-banking firm, has filed to raise $86.25 million via an IPO of common stock on the NYSE under proposed ticker symbol GHL.
www.greenhill-co.com

Adesa Inc. and Kanbay International Inc. both filed for IPOs. Neither one has received significant venture capital or buyout firm investments.

NEWS FROM THURSDAY 3/11

BioRexis Pharmaceutical Corp., a King of Prussia, Pa.-based developer of half-life protein and peptide drugs, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. Prism Venture Partners and return backer Quaker BioVentures co-led the deal, and were joined by new investors Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., Gund Investment Corp. and Anthem Capital. Existing investors ProQuest Investments and Tullis-Dickerson & Co. also participated. Duane Mason, co-founder and general partner of Prism Venture Partners, will join the BioRexis board of directors. www.biorexis.com

 

Maax Inc. (TSX: MXA), a Quebec, Canada-based maker of bathroom fixtures, spas and kitchen cabinets, has agreed to be acquired for $Cdn22.50 per share (approx. US$17.02), in a deal worth around Cdn$640 million (approx. US$484 million). This represents a 22% premium over the closing price of $18.51 per share on the sale prior to the announcement of the sale process, and a 29% premium over the 20-day, volume-weighted average price prior to that same announcement. The buyer is a private equity consortium composed of J.W. Childs Associates, Borealis Private Equity LP and the Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System. Maax currently employs 3,800 people in its 25 plants and distribution centers across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. www.maax.com

 

Cardtronics Group Inc., a Houston, Texas-based operator and distributor of automated teller machines, has filed to raise $115 million via an IPO of common stock on the Nasdaq under proposed ticker symbol CATM. The company is majority-owned by CapStreet Group LLC. www.cardtronics.com

 

Ecosynthetix Inc., an East Lansing, Mich.-based provider of bio-based adhesives, inks and coatings, has raised $8.7 million in Series A-2 funding. Investors included Cargill Ventures, H.B. Fuller Ventures, VentureLink Diversified Balanced Fund Inc., 401 Capital Partners Inc., Northern Rivers Innovation Fund, Nadal Investments, Tera Capital, Delta Northern Rivers Fund and H.J.G. Partnership. www.ecosynthetix.com

 

Extend America, a Bismarck, N.D.based wireless communications provider, has raised $9.5 million in second-round funding. New investor Catalyst Investors was joined on the deal by Nextel, Ignition Partners, Cascade Investment and Greespun Corp. www.extendamerica.com

 

Xaloy Inc., a Pulaski, Va.-based manufactuer of process systems and components for plastics molding and extrusion machinery, has been acquired by its management team in partnership with Baird Capital Partners. Key Principal Partners provided additional equity and subordinated debt, while Harris Trust & Savings Bank provided senior debt. Company management also provided significant equity. Xaloy had previously been owned by the Saurer Group. www.xaloy.com

 

American Capital Strategies has invested $27 million to support H.I.G. Capital’s going-private acquisition of T-Netix Inc., a provider of telecom products and services to correctional facilities. T-Netix stopped trading on the Nasdaq last week. www.t-netix.com 

Centre Partners Management has completed its previously announced acquisition of Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. (formerly Nasdaq: LTUS). www.gardenfreshcorp.com

 

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Hellman & Friedman LLC is nearing a final close on its fifth fund, with a likely capitalization of around $2.5 billion.

 

Willis Group Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: WSH) announced the resignations of board members Henry Kravis, George Roberts and Todd Fisher. All three men are investors with private equity shop Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), which recently sold 24 million shares of Willis Group stock in order to reduce its ownership stake to approximately 7.5 percent. Willis Group has replaced the KKR board members with independent directors. www.willis.com

 

Ann Gill and Richard Stenberg have left their partnership roles at law firm Dewey Ballantine LLP, in order to join the private equity practice of Thelen Reid & Priest LLP.

 

Lauren Bigelow has joined Cleantech Venture Network as the company’s director of programs. She previously served as the educational director of the Ann Arbor IT Zone,  a networking and education organization that promoted the growth of the IT industry in Michigan.  www.cleantechventure.com

 

Bridgepoint, a UK-based private equity firm, has named three members to its newly-created advisory board. They are: Penny Hughes, former president of Coca-Cola UK and current non-executive director of Vodafone; George Mathewson, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland and a non-executive director of Santander Central Hispano SA and Scottish Investment Trust PLC; and Alan Milburn, UK Secretary of Health until June 2003, and the Labour Member of Parliament for Darlington. Bridgepoint Chairman David Shaw will chair the new committee. www.bridgepoint-capital.com

 

Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc., a Mandeville, La.-based owner and operator of deepwater-capability offshore supply vessels, has set its IPO offering range to $13-$15 per share, and set its number of offered shares to six million. Company shareholders include Rock Creek Partners and SCF Partners.

NEWS FROM WEDNESDAY 3/10

CombinatoRx Inc., a Boston-based biopharmaceutical company, has raised $30 million in third-round funding. New investors on the deal included boston Millennia Partners, Easton Hunt Capital Partners and Yasuda Enterprise Development, while return backers included Global Life Science Ventures, Canaan Partners, Flagship Ventures and TL Ventures. Pat Fortune, a partner with Boston Millennia, will join the CominatoRX board of directors in conjunction with the financing. The company has raised over $80 million in total VC funding since its 2000 inception, including a $40 million second-round deal in 2002 at a post-money valuation of approximately $72 million. www.combinatorx.com

The Carlyle Group has launched a new Russian investment team in Moscow. Joshua Larson and Andrei Terekhov have joined the firm as managing directors charged with heading up the Carlyle Russia effort. Larson was formerly head of Morgan Stanley’s Russian operations in Moscow, while Terekhov previously served as a senior partner and co-founder of Baring Vostok Capital Partners. This is Carlyle’s second stab at the Russian market, as it opened a Moscow office in 1999 but closed it in 2002. www.carlyle.com

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) has committed $125 million to the second fund being raised by Silver Lake Partners, and another $125 million to First Reserve X, a fund managed by First Reserve Corp.

Aspreva Pharmaceuticals Corp., a Victoria, Canada-based drug company, has raised $57 million in Series A funding. Sprout Group led the deal, and was joined by InterWest Partners, HBM Partners, Thomas Weisel Healthcare Ventures, BioAsia Investments LLC and Axiom Venture Partners. The deal (which was mentioned in yesterday’s Wire), includes $53 million in VC funds and $4.2 million in converted debt. www.aspreva.com

Phylogix Inc., a Scarborough, Maine-based biotech company focused on tissue protection and oncology, has raised $12 million in Series B funding. New investors included Radius Ventures, Atlas Venture, Prospect Venture Partners and Canaan Partners. Return backers included the Biotechnology Value Fund and Maine’s Small Enterprise Growth Fund. www.phylogix.com

Alinean Inc., an Orlando, Fla.-based provider of ROI software solutions, has closed its Series A funding round led by Stonehenge Capital Company and Grace Venture Partners . www.alinean.com

Spine Next SA, a Bordeaux, France-based biotech company, has raised $2 million in fourth-round funding led by Viscogliosi Bros.

Hymite AS, a Copenhagen-based maker of optical telecom components, has raised €9.7 million in second-round funding. TVM and InnovationsKapital co-led the deal. www.hymite.com

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Madison Dearborn Partners is nearing a deal to acquire movie theater chain Cinemark USA Inc. for approximately $1 billion, plus an additional $560 million in debt. News of the potential blockbuster began to leak earlier this month.

Onex Partners , the private equity investment arm of Onex Corp. (TSX: OCG), has agreed to acquire a 30% interest in ResCare Inc. (Nasdaq: RSCR) for $83 million. The deal includes $50 million in a new class of convertible preferred stock (based upon a $10.50 per share conversion price), and the purchase of $33 million in common stock at $8.90 per share from certain ResCare shareholders, including the company’s founding shareholder. ResCare is a Louisville, Ky.-based provider of services to special populations, including persons with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. www.rescare.com

Smiths Detection, an operating division of Smiths Group PLC (OTC BB: SMGK), has acquired Cyrano Sciences Inc., a Pasadena, Calif.-based provider of miniature sensors to detect and identify chemical vapors. The deal includes a consideration of $15 million, plus an earn-out. Cyrano Sciences has raised around $45 million in VC funding since its 1997 inception, including a $23 million deal in 2000 at a post-money valuation of approximately $66 million. Company investors included Marquette Venture Partners, Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., Oak Investment Partners, Canaan Partners, Apple Tree Partners, Ridgestone Corp. and Rustic Canyon Ventures. www.cyranosciences.com

IBM Corp. has agreed to acquire Trigo Technologies Inc., a Brisbane, Calif.-based provider of product management software. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Trigo has raised around $55 million in total VC funding since its 1999 inception, with investments coming from Globespan Capital Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Ft. Washington Capital Partners, Mayfield fund, Pequot Capital and Symphony Technology Group. www.trigo.com

Joe Jennings has joined Labrador Ventures as an entrepreneur-in-residence. He previously served as president of Dorado Network Systems. www.labrador.com

James Walsh has joined Anila Investment LLC as a managing principal, where he will head up the New York-based VC firm’s new Palo Alto, Calif. office. He was previously a founding partner of a group of hedge funds, and also has held senior positions with Zurich Financial Services, Societe Generale, Prudential Securities and Credit Suisse First Boston. www.anila.com

Jack Burns has joined C.E. Unterberg Towbin as a principal in the firm’s private clients group. He previously served as a vice president with Credit Suisse First Boston. www.unterberg.com

Patrick Healy , a managing director with Hellman & Freidman, has replaced Warren Hellman on the Nasdaq board of directors.

Credit Suisse First Boston has named Marc Granetz as its new M&A chief, according to Reuters . He is currently in charge of the firm’s media and telecom I-banking efforts.

Santarus Inc., a San Diego-based drug company focused on gastrointestinal diseases and disorders, has set its IPO offering range to $11-$13 per share, and set its number of offered shares to 7.1 million. The company originally filed for its IPO in late December. It has raised over $90 million in VC funding, including investments from St. Paul Venture Capital, Domain Associates, Advent Venture Partners, JPMorgan Partners, S.R. One Ltd. and Life Sciences Partners. www.santarus.com

Cutera Inc., a Brisbane, Calif.-based maker of aesthetic laser systems for dermatologists and plastic surgeons, has decreased the number of shares being offered in its IPO from 3.582 million to 3.532 million. The company was formerly known as Altus Medical Inc., and had filed for a $60 million IPO in January 2002, before pulling its registration papers in June of that year. The company has raised over $7.3 million in venture capital funding from MedVenture Associates and Alta Partners. www.altusmedical.com

Immunicon Corp., a Huntingdon Valley, Pa.-based company specializing in cell-based research and diagnostic products with an initial focus on cancer, has set its IPO offering range at $12-$14 per share, and its number of offered shares to six million. The company has raised over $86 million in venture funding from investors like Canaan Partners, Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., TL Ventures, MDS Life Sciences, LHC Corp. Wheatley Partners, Anthem Capital, Burrill & Co. and Foundation Medical Partners. www.immunicon.com

Peninsula Pharmaceuticals Inc., an Alameda, Calif.-based drug company focused on anti-infective products, has indefinitely postponed an $86.25 million IPO that was supposed to price this week. The company had raised around $80 million in VC funding from investors like Domain Associates, Canaan Partners, A.M. Pappas & Associates, Montreux Equity Partners and OrbiMed Advisors

WCA Waste Corp. and ATX Group Inc. field for IPOs of $97.75 million and $86.25 million, respectively. Neither company has received any substantial private equity backing.

NEWS FROM TUESDAY 3/9

Tom Hicks, chairman and founder of buyout shop Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, will retire from the firm on March 31, 2005. The decision was made, in part, so that Hicks could spend more time with his family and other business interests, which include a residential real estate development effort and a pair of professional sports franchises in Texas. John Muse will succeed Hicks as firm chairman, while Lyndon Lea will join a management committee that also includes Muse and Jack Furst, who has been a HMTF partner since 1989.

Woodside Fund, a Redwood Shores, Calif.-based venture capital firm, has closed its fifth fund with $146 million. The new vehicle is expected to house between 15 and 20 portfolio companies, with a focus on early-stage technology companies in the enterprise software, fabless semiconductor and networking infrastructure sectors. www.woodsidefund.com

Compound Therapeutics Inc., a Waltham, Mass.-based biotech company focused on protein-based drugs, has acquired the strategic assets of Phylos Inc., a Lexington, Mass.-based biotech company specializing in the genomics and proteomics fields. No financial terms of the acquisition were disclosed. Compound Therapeutics raised $13 million in Series A funding in March 2003 at a post-money valuation of over $18 million. Investors included Atlas Venture, Flagship Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners. Phylos had raised over $25 million in Series B funding over three years ago at a post-money valuation of approximately $80 million. Investors included Invemed Associates, Long Pine Capital, Sprout Group and Three Arch Partners. www.phylos.com

Trigence Corp., an Ottawa, Canada-based developer of applications software for IT operations, has raised Cdn$5.5 million (approx. US$4.1 million) in new VC funding. VenGrowth Capital Partners and BDC Venture Capital co-led the round, and were joined by return backer Axis Investment Fund. The company now has raised a total of Cdn$7.2 million (approx. US$5.4 million). www.trigence.com

Relativity Technologies Inc., a Raleigh, N.C.-based provider of solutions for application portfolio management and modernization, has raised $6.5 million in Series B-1 and recap funding. Wachovia Strategic Partners led the deal, and was joined by fellow new investor Tall Oaks Capital Partners. Return backers Intel Capital, Noro-Moseley Partners and Wakefield Group also participated. The company now has raised over $23 million in VC funding since its 1997 inception. www.relativity.com

Gracenote Inc., an Emeryville, Calif.-based provider of information services for digital music and media, has raised $13 million in Series D funding. Bessemer Venture Partners led the deal, and was joined by return backer Sequoia Capital, Scott Jones and Simon Investments. As part of the transaction, Jeremy Levine, a principal with Bessemer Ventures, has joined the Gracenote board of directors.

Agitar Software Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of a tool to automate software testing, has raised $12.6 million in second-round funding. New Enterprise Associates led the deal, and was joined by fellow new investors Sonsini Investment Co. and Amidzad II LLC. Return backer Sequoia Capital also participated. As part of the transaction, Peter Morris of NEA will join the Agitar board of directors. www.agitar.com

DolphinSearch Inc., a Ventura, Calif.-based provider of electronic discovery solutions, has raised $10 million in Series C funding from Insight Venture Partners. www.dolphinsearch.com

SeeWhy Software Ltd., a Windsor, UK-based developer of operational business intelligence software, has raised £ 1.1 million (approx. $2.02 million) in first-round funding. Pentech Ventures and Delta Partners co-led the deal, and were joined by several angel investors and a grant from the UK Department for Trade & Industry. www.seewhy.com

nCircle Network Security Inc., a San Francisco-based provider of enterprise-class vulnerability management solutions, has raised $15 million in new venture funding. Menlo Ventures led the deal, and was joined by fellow return backers BV Capital and Alta Partners . www.ncircle.com

The Financial Post is reporting that Canadian drug company Aspreva Pharmaceuticals Corp. soon will announce that it has raised US$50 million in first-round funding. www.aspreva.com

Evoxis Inc. , a Pittsburgh-based provider of voice cloning, has raised $4 million in new venture capital funding. www.evoxis.com

Baring Private Equity Partners India has agreed to sell its 20.3% interest in business process outsourcing (BPO) provider Msource Inc. to its parent company MphasiS BFL Ltd., a computer software developer publicly traded on the Bombay exchange. The $31.1 million deal includes $11 million in cash and $21.1 million worth of newly issued MphasiS stock. www.msource.net

Xilinx Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX) has agreed to acquire Triscend Corp., a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of configurable embedded microcontroller technology. Triscend has raised over $67 million in VC funding since its 1997 inception, from investors including Berkeley International Capital, Thomas Weisel Partners, UMC Capital, United Venture Capital, Vulcan Inc., WK Associates, Wasserstein Ventures and Wind River Ventures. The company had forged an earlier agreement to be acquired by ARM Holdings PLC, but that deal fell apart. www.triscend.com

Karsten von Koller, former chairman and managing director with commercial real estate bank Eurohypo AG, has been elected as an independent director of W.P. Carey & Co. LLC (NYSE: WPC). In addition, he will serve as a member of W.P. Carey’s independent investment committee. www.wpcarey.com

Thomas Banks has joined Trivest Partners as a senior associate. He previously served as an associate in the healthcare I-banking group of Morgan Stanley.

Robert Barrows has joined Cambridge, Mass.-based Zero Stage Capital as chief financial officer. He previously served as senior vice president and chief financial officer of Berkshire Mortgage Finance . He replaces interim CFO Robert Herlihy, who has left the firm. www.zerostage.com

 

NEWS FROM MONDAY 3/8

 

CipherTrust Inc., an Atlanta-based provider of email protection solutions, has raised $42 million in Series B funding. Battery Ventures and Greylock co-led the oversubscribed deal, with U.S. Venture Partners, Noro-Moseley and return backer Silicon Valley Bank also participating. CipherTrust had previously raised $6 million in funding, but the majority of it came from founder Jay Chaudhry and company management. PE Week subscribers can read more on this story in today’s print edition, or in the protected Weekly Headlines section of www.PrivateEquityWeek.com . www.ciphertrust.com

The Blackstone Group has agreed to acquire Extended Stay America Inc. (NYSE: ESA) for a total of $3.1 billion. The deal includes around $1.9 billion paid in cash by Blackstone, plus an assumption of debt and deal expenses. Additional details will be discussed during a teleconference call at 10am EST today. www.extendedstay.com

Globespan Capital Partners has raised its first fund since spinning out of Jafco Co. Ltd. in January 2003. The oversubscribed vehicle closed with $285 million, and included investments from institutional and strategic investors in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Its previous fund was capitalized with $425 million. PE Week subscribers can read more on this story in today’s print edition, or in the protected Weekly Headlines section of www.PrivateEquityWeek.com . www.globespancapital.com

Aperto Networks Inc., a Milipitas, Calif.-based provider of broadband wireless access systems, has raised $20 million in Series D funding. JK&B Capital led the deal, and was joined by return backers Canaan Partners, Alliance Ventures, Innovacom, Tyco Ventures, Labrador Ventures and Satwik Ventures. Aperto now has raised $77 million in total VC funding since its 1999 founding. www.apertonet.com

Colubris Networks Inc., a Waltham, Mass.-based provider of wireless LAN access equipment and management systems, has raised $13 million in Series C funding. GrandBanks Capital led the deal, and was joined by fellow new investor Mid-Atlantic Venture Funds. Return backers include Prism Venture Partners and the Development Bank of Canada. Colubris now has raised around $21 million since its 2000 inception. www.colubris.com

Actona Technologies Inc., a Los Gatos, Calif.-based provider of file services solutions for enterprise storage networks, has raised $10 million in Series C funding. Mayfield led the deal, and was joined by return backers Sequoia Capital, Evergreen Partners and the Fantine Group. The company now has raised $23 million in total VC funding since its 2000 inception. www.actona.com

Voltaire Inc., a Bedford, Mass.based provider of InfiniBand solutions, has raised $15 million in new VC funding New investor Vertex Venture Capital co-led the deal alongside return backers Baker Capital and Pitango Venture Capital. Other existing investors Platinum Venture Capital, Tamir Fishman Ventures and The Challenge Fund also participated. Voltaire now has raised around $50 million since its 1997 inception. www.voltaire.com

CareX SA, a Strasbourg, France-based biopharmaceutical company focused on metabolic disease, has raised $32 million in Series B funding. Index Venturees led the deal, and was joined by Global Life Science Ventures, Credit Lyonnais Private Equity and BioMedinvest. Return backers included Sofinnova Ventures, Mara Ventures and GIMV. www.carex.fr

NeoPath Networks Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif.-based provider of file management technology that addresses unstructured file data, has raised $6 million in Series A funding. August Capital and DCM-Doll Capital Management co-led the deal, and were joined by DotEdu Ventures and HighBAR Ventures. www.neopathnetworks.com

Nanochip Inc., a Fremont, Calif.-based provider of MEMS-based storage solutions, has raised $20 million in Series B funding. JK&B Capital led the deal, and was joined by New Enterprise Associates, Microsoft Corp. and AKN Technology. www.nanochip.com

World Wide Packets, a Spokane, Wash.-based provider of Ethernet access networking solutions, has held an $8.7 million second close on its third-round of VC funding. The company had previously announced a first close of $15.7 million, for a round total of $24.5 million. Argo Global Capital and Entrepia Ventures participated on the second close, while first tranche investors included Madrona Venture Group, Northwest Venture Associates and Azure Capital Partners. www.wwp.com

InTouch Health Inc., a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based developer of remote presence technology for healthcare providers, has raised $6.7 million in Series B funding. Acacia Venture Partners led the deal, and was joined by return backers InvestCare Partners and Twenty One East Victoria Investments. www.intouchhealth.com

Beta-O2, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based medical device company focused on the supply of oxygen to transplanted cells, has raised $2 million in seed funding. Vitalife led the deal, and was joined the Israeli government fund Heznek.

Salesnet Inc., a Boston-based provider of online CRM software, has raised $10 million in Series F funding. New investor WestAM was joined on the deal by return backers Prism Venture Partners and Phoenix Investment Partners. www.salesnet.com

Royal Ahold NV has reportedly agreed to sell its Argentinean supermarket chain Disco to Chilean retailer Cencosud SA for approximately $315 million. Also participating on the purchase are AIG Capital Partners, Capital International Inc. and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp.

Carlyle/Riverstone Global Energy & Power Fund II has agreed to acquire the parent company of Buckeye Pipe Line Co. for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter. www.buckeye.com

Grey Wolf Inc. has agreed to acquire all outstanding stock of New Patriot Drilling Corp., a Casper Wyoming-based portfolio company of Lime Rock Partners. The deal includes $16.3 million in cash and the retirement of $13.7 million in outstanding Patriot debt. The deal is expected to close in April.

Akonix Systems Inc. has terms were disclosed. Natural Messaging has received VC funding from SmartForest Ventures, while Akonix is backed by Menlo Ventures, Mission Ventures, Palomar Ventures and Winward Ventures. www.naturalmessaging.com

Silicon Valley Bank has formed a new Special Equities Group, which will offer capital market liquidity to the private equity community. The group’s expertise includes strategies for liquidation of restricted securities after an IPO or M&A, as well as exit strategies and special situations. The group is led by Matthew Clark , former managing director of Banc of America Securities’ Venture Services group. He is joined by fellow BofA veterans Mark Gordon, Christian Hall and Andrew Lee. www.svb.com

Blackboard Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based provider of software to the education industry, has filed to raise $75 million via an IPO of common stock on the Nasdaq under proposed ticker symbol BBBB. The company has raised around $100 million in VC funding since its 1997 inception, including a $52 million infusion in 2001 at a post-money valuation of approximately $210 million. Blackboard shareholders include Oak Hill Capital Partners, Carlyle Venture Partners, Novak Biddle Venture Partners and Microsoft Corp. www.blackboard.com

NuVasive Inc., a San Diego-based medical device maker focused on the surgical treatment of spinal disorders, has filed to raise $92 million via an IPO of common stock on the Nasdaq under proposed ticker symbol NUVA. The company has raised over $70 million in VC funding since its 1997 inception, including a $15 million deal in late 2002 at a post-money valuation of approximately $122 million. NuVasive shareholders include William Blair Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Enterprise Partners, Domain Associates and A.M. Pappas & Associates.

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