€75m venture capital fund for emerging businesses

8 Oct 2008

The Ulster Bank Diageo Fund has launched a new €75m fund that will be managed by NCB Ventures.

The fund is the fifth new fund supported by Government through Enterprise Ireland’s €175m Seed and Venture Capital Programme 2007-2012.

The Ulster Bank Diageo Venture Fund Limited Partnership will invest in companies at early and expansion stages of development across a broad range of industrial sectors.

The geographical focus will be the island of Ireland and investments will range from €0.5m to €5m per company.

The first closing of €75m exceeded expectations and further investments will be accepted up to a final closing of €100m.

“This fund significantly increases the availability of capital for companies seeking to expand and internationalise their businesses, and marks a vital contribution to the ongoing development of the venture capital sector in Ireland,” the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan TD said today.

“I would like to congratulate NCB on its success in attracting such a broad range of investors spanning the public and private sectors and, working in close co-operation with Enterprise Ireland and the other investors, making this new fund a reality.”

Investors in the Ulster Bank Diageo Venture Fund Limited Partnership comprise a unique combination of corporates, financial institutions, pension funds, private investors and state agencies including Enterprise Ireland, Ulster Bank, Diageo Ireland, the National Pensions Reserve Fund, NCB and private clients of NCB.

“The high level of commitments achieved is a strong vote of confidence from public and private sectors in the future growth potential of Irish businesses, notwithstanding the current challenging economic environment,” said Conor O’Kelly, chief executive officer of NCB Group.

“Ulster Bank’s investment in this new fund demonstrates our continuing commitment to support entrepreneurial business ventures in Ireland that require equity capital to grow and expand,” explained Robert Gallagher, chief executive of Ulster Bank Corporate Markets.

“The investment strategy of the Ulster Bank Diageo Venture Fund is aligned with the bank’s overall commitment to provide a range of funding and other supports to businesses operating at various stages of development. We are particularly pleased that this fund will target companies spread across the island of Ireland.”

Venture capital is an essential element of the ecosystem for Irish indigenous industry, providing risk capital for companies that would have difficulty raising capital through traditional sources of finance.

Under the 2007-2012 Seed and Venture Capital Programme, the Government through Enterprise Ireland is investing €175m, which will leverage an estimated investment of €1bn in start-up, early-stage and development-stage businesses.

“The availability of new funds for investment in early- and expansion-stage companies is vital if we are to continue to encourage and promote entrepreneurship,” said Michael Murphy, managing partner of NCB Ventures.

“Given the shortage of liquidity in financial markets, it is an opportune time to back innovative entrepreneurs in small- and medium-sized businesses that offer competitive advantage in an increasingly global marketplace,” Murphy added.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years