Welsh Carson Looking For “Toeholds”: Queally

Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe, which typically does buyouts, is currently looking at several minority investments in public companies, Paul Queally, co-president of the firm, said during the closing panel at today’s Buyouts New York conference.

“You might see some 13-Ds from us,” Queally said, in response to a question on opportunities the firm is seeing.

Though Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe has pursued the strategy before, its renewed interest offers an interesting look at how some firms are grasping for an edge at a time when many companies are selling for high prices. “It’s a very difficult time make money,” Queally said of the deal environment during the panel.

After the panel, Queally said the New York-based shop is pursuing the strategy in part because it feels companies on the market are being bid up too much. “There’s a lot of companies we think might go for sale,” Queally said. By getting a toehold in the company, he said, “We could get a preferred position.”

Though it’s not the most common strategy for Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe, Queally said the firm has taken positions in public companies in the past. For example, in 1999 it bought Concentra Managed Care Inc. in a deal valued at more than $1 billion after holding a 14.9 percent stake in the health care cost-control service provider. The New York-based PE shop makes investments in healthcare and information services.

Ironically, it’s a strategy more frequently executed by Leonard Green & Partners, whose Managing Partner Jonathan Sokoloff shared the dais with Queally during the panel discussion and for whom Queally expressed admiration for its flexibility.