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Capital Markets

Latin American private equity: Asset class returns to record levels

Financial sponsors turn attention to the region.

Private equity in Latin America is heading towards a new high, as capital invested in the region looks set to pass $5 billion, a previous record set in 1998. In recent years capital-raising for private equity in Latin America has gone from a record low of $800 million in 2004 to $2.8 billion in 2006, and is now predicted to pass $5 billion this year, according to investors.

"Despite the skyrocketing growth of private equity globally, there is yet to be meaningful activity in Latin America. Nonetheless, we understand that many private equity organizations are considering increased investment in the region," says James Quigley, chairman of Merrill Lynch International, and head of Latin America at the bank.

Julio Lastres, senior managing director, Americas, at Darby Overseas Investments, has also noticed change: "There used to be only a handful of dedicated Latin America private equity funds in 2003 but now that number is growing at the regional and country-specific levels, and many more are looking," he says. One problem is that it is difficult to get hard data on private equity in Latin America. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that investors are turning their attention to the region.

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