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23 May 2016

The North West Fund for Energy and Environmental delivers largest cash exit to date

Exit release

The North West Fund for Energy and Environmental, managed by 350 Investment Partners, has announced the successful disposal of PlaceFirst Ltd, marking a £3m return for The North West Fund. This represents the largest cash exit of the fund to date.

Manchester-based PlaceFirst Ltd, which develops energy efficient socially affordable housing, has agreed a substantial funding commitment with ESO Capital, which will capitalise the company to deliver 1,000 family homes for rent.

The new funding will allow PlaceFirst to accelerate the development of its extensive project pipeline including the development of Welsh Streets in Dingle, Liverpool.

PlaceFirst has used the investment from The North West Fund to develop both its Woodnook project in Accrington, Lancashire involving 64 socially affordable homes and its West End One project in Morecombe, Lancashire involving 51 homes. PlaceFirst has attracted £7.5m of additional investment and created 200 jobs across these projects.

Jonathan Bryers, Partner at 350IP, said: "PlaceFirst has developed and demonstrated an innovative model for bringing to the market energy efficient social housing in the North of England. Given the acute demand for affordable energy efficient rental property, this is a timely and novel approach using investment finance to deliver clear social, environmental and economic benefits."

David Smith Milne, CEO of PlaceFirst, said: "We would not have been able to grow the business as we have in such a short space of time without the excellent support of The North West Fund and 350IP. We now have the track record and material new funding to deliver on our growth plan to create a portfolio of 1000 high quality, energy efficient and affordable rental homes for families that are caught in the gap between social housing and home ownership."

The North West Fund for Energy and Environmental is now fully invested at £20.6m. Since 2009 it has been delivering on its mandate to create a successful cluster of energy and environmental SMEs in the sector.

It has also enabled private sector leverage of more than £28.8m, with an aim of £40m by 2017. Altogether, it has supported 18 companies and delivered business advice support to 16 companies.

These companies have spanned energy efficiency and LED lighting businesses, renewable generation installers, technology developers, circular economy businesses, energy switching and engineering businesses.

Cliff Maylor, CEO of North West Business Finance, said: "This exit represents a major landmark for The North West Fund and comes as a result of the commitment, determination and expertise of our team and business partners. The exit value of £3m is testament to the work we have put in and our ability to add value to the companies we work with."The North West Fund is provided jointly by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.



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