Apax’s first close is imminent on €6bn

The veteran European firm is days away from a first close on its latest fund on €6 billion, putting the firm in a strong position to hit a final target of about €10 billion, investors say.

Apax Partners, the European buyout group, is on target for a first close on €6 billion of its latest fund this week as it completes its shift in strategy away from venture to focus on buyouts.

The fund has an initial target of €8.5 billion, but investors say demand will push this to at least €10 billion, in line with its focus on buyout investing.

In the past the firm has invested across the spectrum from venture to mega buyouts in a blended portfolio. Apax is however still emphasising its strategy of investing in global buyouts from the upper end of the mid-market and into the biggest buyouts is a point of difference. It should ensure investors find capital in their 2007 allocation for the firm, an investor said.

Under chief executive Martin Halusa, Apax was the highest European fee-payer to investment banks according to the latest numbers from Dealogic, a data provider. The numbers confirm the firm’s position as a prolific deal-doer, despite lacking the same firepower as some of its European and US rivals.

The firm’s 2005 fund closed on €4.3 billion and is almost fully invested.

The investor said Apax’s latest fundraising should correct any imbalance taking the firm toe-to-toe with Permira, which raised an €11 billion fund this year, and CVC Capital Partners, which has gone back to market with a side fund to take its war chest to €10 billion.

Apax opened an office in India this Autumn and the investor said the firm was making good use of its US team, since it merged with Saunders Karp & Megrue in 2005.

Apax Partners declined to comment. MVision is acting as placement agent to the firm and also declined to comment.