Home Venture Capital Pension investment bridge between New York and Belfast has been a win-win...

Pension investment bridge between New York and Belfast has been a win-win partnership

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UNLOCKING PEACE POTENTIAL; Flastback to 2008 when Tom DiNapoli, NY State Comptroller (r) and Bill Thompson, NYC Comptroller, visited the former Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast which was being repurposed as interpretative centre and distillery.



Ahead of the New York-New Belfast conference in the Big Apple on 23 June, Colin Walsh, founder of Crescent Capital looks at an alliance between the Big Apple and the North of Ireland which has benefitted both parties. Over 120 supporters of the transatlantic partnership will gather on Thursday at the New York Athletic Club to hear from business leaders from Belfast and from New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

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This year will mark the seventeenth that Crescent Capital has been managing pension monies on behalf of the New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF).

This long running relationship nearly didn’t happen at all. The size differential between one of the largest pension funds in the world with assets of over $250 billion, and tiny Crescent Capital (large in Northern Ireland terms but otherwise miniscule), only happened as a result of NYSCRF’s Emerging Managers Program.

Dispersing investments via a Fund of Funds manager, this program has enabled smaller investment firms like Crescent to achieve what would have otherwise have been impossible; access to a ‘supersized’ pension fund like NYSCRF. For its part, NYSCRF gained access to small and emerging markets that could not accommodate the larger amounts that NYSCRF would normally wish to deploy, thus spreading its investments on a truly global basis.

For Crescent and for firms raising equity capital across Northern Ireland, the program has been a gamechanger. In 2005, NYSCRF made its first exploratory investment in the region, committing £3.75m ($4.6m) to Crescent Capital II LP, a £22.5m ($27.6m) early stage venture fund which had been launched in 2004. 

The fund invested in a total of 14 companies, many of which have morphed into significant employers in the region. Ten companies were sold for a gain, which is a solid outcome for an early stage venture fund. 

To date, NYSCRF has received all of its capital back, plus a gain on top of that.

Crescent III LP was formed in 2013 and is now in its ninth year. NYSCRF committed £9m ($11m) of a £30m ($36.8m) fund.  

Fifteen investments were made. To date, four have been sold and partial exits/loan repayments etc achieved from three others. 

The impact of NYSCRF’s investments to date in Northern Ireland has been profound. It has provided much needed capital that has fuelled investments in companies across the region, often bringing much needed employment to areas facing economic challenges. It has led the way in highlighting investment opportunities here —  “doing good while doing well”. The NYSCRF Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has visited Northern Ireland on two occasions to meet the management teams of the investee companies and see for himself the impact of these investments.

Not all venture capital investments succeed, but NYSCRF’s “patient capital” approach has been critical in allowing Crescent to finance and help build some truly outstanding businesses across the region that have created real economic impact. 

Crescent is proud of its association with NYSCRF; the relationship has been excellent throughout the seventeen years. Northern Ireland has benefitted from privileged access to the one of the world’s largest pension funds, and continues to deliver returns on this investment to New York State.

Long may it continue.

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