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Private equity firms open to hiring

It may still be tentative, but there are indications that private equity firms are finally hiring again in the Nordics as confidence begins to return.

UK-based Bridgepoint, which earlier this year unveiled the region’s first deal of 2009, for Finnish healthcare company Terveystalo Healthcare, is understood to be looking to add people to its Nordic team, as are both Triton Partners and Altor Equity Partners, which, along with Bure Equity, in February bought independent Swedish adviser Max Matthiessen.

This activity is in part on the back of growing confidence that the market for private equity investment, if not exactly bouncing back, is gradually starting to recover.

Last month, for example, Swedish private equity fund Mint Capital announced a $5-$15m investment to buy 25% plus one share in Russian debt collection agency Stolichnoye Kollektorskoye Agentstvo, while private equity firm KKR has said it has seen a 30% increase in the value of its stake in Nordic telecom company TDC since February 2006.

The market started to show signs of turning around the end of March or beginning of April, points out David Richardson, Nordic consultant at recruiter Private Equity Recruitment.

“Firms have started to feel more of a relative sense of stability. Activity levels are still not high but there is more confidence and, within Stockholm at least, there is more of a mood of quiet optimism within a wide variety of funds. Firms are not necessarily increasing their teams, a lot of it is replacement recruitment," he says.

Whereas two years ago, the focus would have been on associate hires with a few years’ experience, now firms were more often looking for director-level hires or Nordic nationals living in London keen to return home or whose carry schemes have become less attractive.

And, while base salaries had not changed that much, bonus expectations, unsurprisingly, had trimmed considerably, he suggests.

An associate with between two to fours experience could therefore be looking at base salary of between $90k to $123k and a 50% bonus, compared with 100% in the good times, he estimates, or even down to 25-30% in some of the smaller firms.

Banks are becoming more prepared to lend, more firms are evaluating proposals and there is greater expectation and confidence around divestment, agrees Marie Reinius, managing director of the Swedish Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.

“People are not so scared to talk about IPOs or even consider trade sales. Also, there are quite a few industry and trade players that, because of the recession, have had to become more focused on their core activities and so we will be seeing more spin offs,” she says.

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