PE and VC deliver record-breaking investments in Europe

  • €138 billion of equity invested in almost 9,000 European companies, up 51% on 2020
  • €118 billion new capital raised, the highest level seen to date

Brussels, Belgium – While the effects of the COVID pandemic continued to be felt across Europe in 2021, with renewed lockdowns and restrictions, private equity and venture capital firms engaged in record-breaking investments and fundraising – guiding entrepreneurs, backing companies and supporting Europeans across the continent.

European private equity firms invested €138 billion in Europe in 2021, registering an astounding 51% increase over 2020 and setting an all-time record in the process, according to today’s newly published report – Investing in Europe: Private Equity Activity 2021 – by Invest Europe, the voice of Europe’s private equity, venture capital and infrastructure sectors, as well as their investors.

The report – which is the most comprehensive source of fundraising and investment data, covering over 1,800 firms – shows strong recovery in activity following the impact of COVID-19, with new investment records for buyouts, growth investments and venture capital, as funds backed more European companies than ever. A total of 8,895 companies received investment, 13% above the average of the past five years, underscoring the industry’s pivotal role in providing support for companies to weather tough conditions.

All private equity segments witnessed strong investment growth and new records in 2021. Investment in buyouts increased by 28% to €79 billion, growth investment soared 124% to €35 billion, while venture capital investment rose sharply by 70% to €20 billion. Information Communications Technology, Consumer Goods and Services, and Biotech and Healthcare ranked as the leading sectors, accounting for two-thirds of investment, as capital flowed into companies that are driving innovation and seeking solutions for a healthier future.

Eric de Montgolfier, CEO of Invest Europe, commented:

  • Private equity is there to help businesses succeed, whatever the conditions. This is an industry whose managers have a broad understanding of markets and deep experience in sectors that are driving European growth and competitiveness, operating on an altogether larger scale than before.
  • Private equity is more than an asset class, it is a complete ecosystem.
  • “Private equity represents a continuous spectrum of backing for businesses, from the earliest stages of seed funding to the latest stage of buyouts.”

Underlining the increasing scale of the European private equity industry, new funds raised reached €118 billion in 2021, the highest level seen to date. Over the past five years, fund managers have raised over €542 billion for investment in start-ups, SMEs, mid-market and large companies across the continent.

Growth funds raised a record €20 billion in 2021, four times the total raised just five years ago. Venture capital achieved its twelfth successive year of fundraising growth with a record €18 billion raised. The records illustrate Europe’s success in creating new tech and biotech champions, as well as investor appreciation of the strong returns available from early-stage and growth investments.

Fund of funds were the largest providers of capital in 2021, accounting for 23% of all funds raised. Pension funds committed 20% of funds raised, followed by family offices and private individuals on 15%.

It was a strong year for exits in 2021, reflecting returning market confidence among buyers and their belief in the businesses built by private equity. Exits at cost (the original equity amount invested) rose by 60% to €41 billion, as firms exited over 3,700 companies, an increase of 13% on 2020 levels. Divestments by growth firms and venture capital both recorded their second highest totals in the 2007-2021 period at €8 billion and €3 billion respectively.

This data, coupled with Invest Europe’s “Private Equity at Work” report, demonstrate European private equity’s growing contribution to the European economy – in terms of investment, financial performance, resilience and job creation.

Download the full report here.