Wellcome Trust Rues Missed PE Deals

LONDON (Reuters) – Private equity firms have missed the boat on some good deals over the last year, the Wellcome trust charity said on Wednesday, threatening to fill the deal-making void itself.

“At the end of ’08 and beginning of ’09 there were some fantastic opportunities and let’s be honest the private equity industry largely missed them,” Chief Investment Officer Danny Truell told Reuters.

“We have been disappointed with the inability of private equity to make investments in the last year,” he said on the sidelines of a conference.

“If the private equity firms won’t do it, we’ll do it ourselves.”

Private equity deal-making has ground to a halt as debt became harder to secure and company earnings were pressured.

Activity is now picking up as debt appetite returns and earnings become easier to predict.

Truell’s threat is not empty — the Wellcome Trust famously teamed up with Guy Hands’ private equity firm Terra Firma to launch a bid for Alliance Boots [ABN.UL], before losing out to KKR [KKR.UL] and Stefano Pessina.

It has done two deals in the further education sector in Brazil and China and is currently looking into a possible deal in Africa, Truell said.

The charitable Trust’s 13 billion pound ($20.77 billion) investment portfolio provides the income for its funding. The portfolio is managed by an investment team led by Truell that aims to generate a 6 percent real return over the long term.

It has $4.3 billion invested in private equity.

“The best opportunities are at the bottom of the cycle. There were opportunities around in March and we are not going to see those prices again,” he said.

“That’s not to say (private equity firms) wont make good investments in ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12 and ’13,” he added. ($1=.6259 Pound) (Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)