10/07/2007 - 22:00

Wyllie moves with fund management

10/07/2007 - 22:00

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Major Western Australian family investment player, Wyllie Group, has joined the growing local fund management sector with the launch of plans to grow a $100 million private equity vehicle.

Wyllie moves with fund management

Major Western Australian family investment player, Wyllie Group, has joined the growing local fund management sector with the launch of plans to grow a $100 million private equity vehicle.

The group has created its own funds manager, Viburnum, recruiting former ANZ Capital Perth head Marshall Allen as investment director for the new business, which will start with a fund focused on small-cap Western Australian-linked industrial companies.

Wyllie Group, which has a public asset base estimated to be worth about $600 million, will seed the first fund with $30 million and own 50 per cent of Viburnum, which will operate as a division of the St Georges Terrace-based group.

The fund manager’s management will have a strong banking background, with Craig Coleman and Tony Howarth both joining Mr Allen in sharing the remaining 50 per cent equity.

A senior adviser to the Wyllie Group, Mr Coleman is the former CEO of Home Building Society Ltd and former senior executive at ANZ. He has also recently been appointed as a Perth-based executive director of national broking firm Bell Potter Securities Ltd, a role in which he will split his time with Wyllie Group.

Mr Howarth is one of WA’s best-known and active directors. He currently chairs Home and was the former CEO of Challenge Bank Ltd before fronting Westpac Banking Corp Ltd’s WA operations after a takeover of his employer.

Mr Howarth was chairman of Alinta Ltd until this time last year, chairs Mermaid Marine Ltd and was recently appointed to the board of Wesfarmers Ltd.

Wyllie Group managing director Melissa Karlson will also sit on the board of Viburnum.

Mr Coleman said the Viburnum strategy was to occupy ground the big private equity players, by virtue of their size and funding pressure, could not consider.

“The positioning of our fund is under the (private equity) mushroom cloud,” Mr Coleman told WA Business News.

“The overflow of money going into private equity funds is forcing those deals to go bigger in size.

“We want to avoid the fly-in operators.

“We have picked the size and the segment that is a bit of a niche.”

Mr Coleman said the strategy to launch Viburnum was the result of a convergence of three occurrences at Wyllie Group – the deals that the family was offered but rarely took up, the regular contact with fund managers, and the decision to diversify its own portfolio.

Wyllie Group is a big property investor, holding stakes in 225 St Georges Terrace (50 per cent), the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre, Sorrento Quay, and significant land around Waroona, as well as equity stakes in the likes of Multiplex Group, Charter Hall Group Ltd and Nomad Building Solutions Ltd.

Mr Allen said the first fund would seek funding from wholesale or professional investors but was unlikely to go to the market until the end of the year.

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