Under-represented women drive buyout strategy for Dutch fund

Few Peers

Van Boxtel says women’s natural conservatism reins in men’s greater tendency to take risks. Women also tend to care more about their employees’ happiness, resulting in a better workplace, she says.

According to research from Preqin, Karmijn is one of only five private-equity funds, cumulatively looking to raise an aggregate of $786 million, that are currently placing money with gender as some aspect of their strategy. Preqin includes firms allocating some of their funds to a “special interest” or diversity category that includes investments in companies run or managed by women.

When Karmijn pitches to investors, it also cites Catalyst, a New York-based research and advocacy group for women executives. The group said in a 2011 study of Fortune 500 companies that firms with at least three women on the board for at least four years had an average 60% higher return on capital on average than those with no female directors.

EU Investment

Some 71.9% of the total Dutch female workforce was employed in 2012, above the 62.3% proportion for the European Union as a whole and up from 66.9% in 2004, according to the EU statistics agency.

Supporters of Karmijn include the European Investment Fund, which has invested 11 million euros so far and is owned by the European Investment Bank, the European Commission and a group of lenders. The EIB is the EU’s project-finance arm, and only lends to money-making ventures. The EIF provides debt and equity finance to smaller companies.

“The European Investment Fund does not have a specific mandate focusing on gender-diversity projects,” Joelle Harvey, a spokeswoman for the Luxembourg-based fund, said by e-mail. Gender diversity “is an innovative strategy, providing Karmijn with a differentiating and competitive advantage,” she wrote.

Half of Karmijn’s investor base consists of women, according to Van Boxtel. She also says the apparel industry has been a source of capital, not just investment targets.

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