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FirstFT: Private equity groups spend $42bn buying companies from themselves

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Private equity groups this year struck $42bn worth of deals in which they sold portfolio companies to their own funds, a sharp increase over 2020 in a once-niche type of transaction that can generate handsome payouts to executives.

The deals, known as “continuation fund” sales, involve a buyout group selling a company it has owned for several years to a new fund it has more recently raised. That allows it to return cash to earlier investors within the agreed timeframe, while keeping hold of a company that has potential to grow or is proving difficult to sell.

Many buyout groups turned to such deals for the first time in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when a freeze in dealmaking and stock market listings left them with few exit routes.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. We’re taking a short Christmas break and will be back in your inboxes on Tuesday, December 28. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Jennifer

1. Vladimir Putin: US and Russia to hold talks over Ukraine The Russian president said both sides would meet in January in Geneva for talks over Ukraine, which he said were essential to protect Moscow from what he claimed were existential threats from Nato. The crisis has challenged US president Joe Biden’s vow to confront autocrats such as Putin.

  • Related read: France, as well as 13 other European countries and Canada denounced “the deployment of mercenary troops” linked to Russia in the west African country of Mali as the government there battles Islamist militants.

2. Ex-TSB chair to oversee shake-up of NHS England Richard Meddings, who overhauled TSB’s IT systems and improved its customer relations, has been picked to oversee a shake-up of the NHS. “We think that bringing in this outsider’s eye will help deliver the accountability that’s needed as we drive through reforms,” said a colleague of the UK health secretary.

Meddings’ nomination will be welcomed by the Treasury, which is determined that an extra £12bn investment in NHS and social care will produce results
Meddings’ nomination will be welcomed by the Treasury, which is determined that an extra £12bn investment in NHS and social care will produce results © Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

3. Third Point fund chair quits after ‘personal threats’ Steve Bates, a former US equity analyst and JPMorgan executive who had been Third Point’s chair since 2019, has stepped down after he received “personal threats” amid an escalating fight with rebel investors.

4. Europe’s largest energy users warn on soaring costs Dunkirk’s Alvance, the continent’s largest producer of aluminium, has reduced output by close to 4 per cent since early December, as outages at nuclear power plants sparked higher electricity prices in France.

5. Low supply and high demand boosts champagne prices Vintage champagnes such as Dom Pérignon 2008 and Krug 2000 have popped in price this year, outperforming global stocks, as wealthy investors hunt for returns in previously overlooked asset classes.

Coronavirus digest

  • People infected with the Omicron coronavirus variant were far less likely to be admitted to hospital than those with Delta, according to a study by England’s public health body.

  • A drop in restaurant bookings and coffee shop spending in the UK has fuelled expectations that lower consumer spending will drive an economic contraction in December and January.

  • A third dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine increases antibody levels against Omicron far less than a BioNTech/Pfizer booster, a study has shown.

  • Omicron has brought the slow reopening of Asia to a juddering halt as governments rush to reimpose travel restrictions.

  • US president Joe Biden has acknowledged that he should have pushed for a bigger national programme to distribute free rapid Covid-19 tests earlier.

  • US stocks rose to a record-high close yesterday, marking the third consecutive advance, as promising economic data helped offset fears surrounding Omicron.

  • More than half of the 31 shows on Broadway have had to call off a performance in December owing to coronavirus.

Line chart of 7-day average, % equivalent week of 2019,  showing The number of UK seated diners fell

The day ahead

Libya election postponed Libyans were meant to go to the polls but after the High National Electoral Commission ordered a dissolution of the electoral committees nationwide without naming a final list of candidates, the commission said it was “impossible” to hold the vote. The election board has proposed January 24 as the new date for the poll. (Al Jazeera)

Christmas Eve Pope Francis will celebrate midnight mass at St Peter’s Basilica. Midnight mass will also be celebrated at the site of Jesus’s birth, at the Church of the Nativity on Manger Square in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

What else we’re reading

Brexit one year on: the impact on the UK economy The overall effect of the decision to leave the EU on people’s living standards appears to be negative but uncertain, according to economists. The debate has rarely been about whether there would be a hit to growth and living standards, but rather how big a hit.

Where have weather records been broken this year? This year has been progressively warmer than normal, with global temperatures inching higher than the average with each passing month. The FT is tracking extreme climate events from around the world. Explore our interactive tracker.

How bad was 2021? Chief foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman is joined by colleagues Martin Wolf and Gillian Tett to look back at a year bookended with Donald Trump’s chaotic exit from the White House and Vladimir Putin’s threats against Ukraine, with the ever-present inflation raging throughout.

Afghan female footballers enjoy new lease of life in England After facing rocket blasts and firefights, some of the most talented female players escaped the Taliban and are finding new beginnings in England’s north, thanks to supporters including Leeds United Football Club.

What happened to festive TV? The exertion of Christmas lunch usually gives way to the quiet hubbub of primetime comedy. But the landscape has changed since the 1970s. Henry Mance looks back at the golden age of Christmas television and considers what might take its place.

Food and drink

“We always drink good wine at Christmas, but the only time we’ve opened a really, really good [read: seriously expensive] bottle was last year, when social gatherings were limited to a single household and, for the first time ever, it was just us two,” writes Jancis Robinson on the best time to drink pricey wine.

© Leon Edler

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