Omers makes hires as it gears up for first European exit

The latest additions boost the C$ 77 billion (US$ 57 billion) Canadian pension fund’s European private equity team to 18, but it plans to expand further to between 20 and 25 over the next year, according to Martin Le Huray, co-head of Omers Private Equity in Europe.

“We will be looking to expand the team over the next 12 months or so across many levels,” he told Financial News.

Banking veteran Peter Kiernan, the former chair of investment banking in Europe at Canaccord Genuity, has joined the team as a senior adviser. Kiernan’s career includes managing director positions at Goldman Sachs and UBS.

The other two advisers were sourced from two of its portfolio companies: Simon Downing, chairman of software and outsourcing services business Civica group, which was acquired by Omers in 2013; and Hamdi Conger, a non-executive director at ship management company V.Ships, which Omers bought for $ 520 million including debt in 2011.

The hires come as the pension fund’s European private equity arm gears up to generate its first profit since it opted to do direct private equity deals seven years ago. It has appointed Goldman Sachs to advise on the sale of V.Ships and will hold an auction process in the first half of 2017, according to a person familiar with the matter.

FN reported last month that the firm had held talks with advisers with a view to selling its stake in V.Ships.

Omers is one of several Canadian pension investment managers that is eyeing expansion in Europe as a means to deploy the vast amount of capital it has at its disposal.

In May, sister publication Private Equity News reported that Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board, which has $ 112 billion under management, had hired three investment executives from CVC Capital Partners and Permira in early 2016 after it opened an office in London in autumn 2015.

Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, a Canadian institutional investor, also bolstered its London team this year with the addition of senior associate Thomas Herry, who was previously an associate at the Riverside Company.

Le Huray and Jonathan Mussellwhite were appointed co-heads of Omers Private Equity Europe in the summer as part of a reshuffle in which Mark Redman gained global oversight of the fund’s private equity practice.

Le Huray said the firm was committed to the European market despite “reasonably full” asset prices in the region. Firms in Europe paid US$ 452.8 million on average for assets in 2015, up from $ 329.5 million in 2014, according to data provider Preqin.

Le Huray said Omers Private Equity would be interested in exploring tie-ups with corporates to buy assets. He said they “could be very effective partners” for the pension fund.

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