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International VC Investment Down 50%
Europe Sees Record-Low Deal Count but Outpaces U.S. in Energy Investment

In lockstep with the pullback seen in the United States, venture capitalists invested 50% less capital in the international markets during in the first quarter of 2009, according to Dow Jones VentureSource (www.venturecapital.dowjones.com). Investors put $1.87 billion to work in 250 deals for emerging companies in Europe, Israel, China and India in the first quarter, compared to the $3.65 billion invested in 430 deals in these regions during the same time last year. The U.S. saw 477 completed deals and $3.89 billion invested in the first quarter though it too recorded a 50% decline in capital investment.



"This is the first time we've seen such a collective pullback in worldwide venture investment, and it points to a deeper trend within the industry for VCs to conserve fund capital, make very selective investments and focus on existing portfolio companies," said Jessica Canning , Director of Global Research for Dow Jones VentureSource. "VCs are faced with challenges on both ends of the investment lifecycle, as liquidity markets are virtually shut down in the face of the economic crisis and cash-strapped limited partners are reluctant to back new venture funds without a clear promise of returns. While none of this is good news for the industry as a whole, it is seed and early-stage companies that are likely to suffer the most." 

Europe* Sees Overall Investment Fall 35%
According to the data, Europe saw 170 deals garner $1.18 billion (euro 906 million) in the first quarter, down 35% from the $1.83 billion (euro 1.40 billion) put into 281 deals during the same period in 2008. This marks the lowest deal count for Europe since VentureSource began reporting on the region in 2000.

Like the U.S., Europe's information technology (IT) industry is bearing the brunt of the downturn. The industry saw $362 million (euro 277 million) invested in 82 IT deals in the first quarter, down 44% from the $643 million (euro 492 million) put into 129 such deals last year and the industry's worst quarter on record. Within IT, the information services sector fared better than most as it accounted for 46% of all IT investment in the quarter with $167 million (euro 127 million) put into 28 deals, which is down 16% from the year-ago period but on par with investment levels the sector has seen over the last two years.

Investment in the European health care industry outpaced that of IT in the first quarter as venture capitalists put $406 million (euro 311 million) into 42 health care deals. Even so, this marks a 39% decline from the first quarter of 2008 when $671 million (euro 513 million) was put into 70 deals.

Europe Outpaces U.S. in Energy Investment
According to VentureSource, Europe's energy and utilities industry was the only area to see investment actually increase, up 82% to $289 million (euro 221 million) in 10 deals from $159 million (euro 122 million) in 18 deals a year ago. This growth was due to a large round raised by NorSun of Oslo, Norway, which landed $192 million (euro 147 million) in first-round financing.

"For the first time since 2005, we've seen the Europe region outpace the United States in terms of energy-related investment," added Ms. Canning. "While there was a dramatic increase in renewable energy funding in the U.S. in recent years, especially when oil prices spiked last year, European investors remained relatively restrained in their enthusiasm, a testament to the region's well-established and long-running dedication to developing green and alternative energy technologies."

Venture Deals Get Cheaper, Except in Europe
VentureSource found that the cost of doing venture capital deals also fell throughout much of the world in the first quarter of 2009. In Europe, the median size of venture capital deal ticked up over 8% to $3.9 million (euro 3 million) from $3.6 million (euro 2.8 million). In Israel, the median deal size fell 40% from $5 million a year ago to $3 million in the most recent quarter. The median size of a deal in India was just over $4.2 million in the quarter.

The U.S. saw its median deal size drop 18% from $6.7 million to $5.5 million in the first quarter. China represents the most expensive destination for venture capital with a median deal size of $8 million.

Further Country Perspectives 

  • China saw $426 million put in 34 deals during the first quarter, a 58% drop from the $1.01 billion invested in 54 deals during the first quarter of 2008. Notably, $76 million went to three health care deals, the second-highest investment total for the industry.
  • In the United Kingdom, venture investment fell 58% from $734 million (euro 562 million) invested in 98 deals last year to $305 million (euro 234 million) in 50 deals during the most recent quarter. This marks the country's lowest deal count on record.
  • Norway saw VC investment jump to a record $197 million (euro 151 million) in the first quarter on the back of the NorSun deal, up from $12 million (euro 9 million) a year ago.
  • Israel saw investment slide 75% to $163 million from $661 million a year ago while its deal count fell to 33 from 73 a year ago.
  • In France, investors put $153 million (euro 117 million) into 43 deals, down 41% from $259 million (euro 198 million) in 53 deals a year ago.
  • In India, venture capitalists invested $101 million in 13 deals in the first quarter, 29% less than the $142 million the country garnered in 22 deals last year.
  • Capital investment in Germany dipped to $91 million (euro 70 million), down 68% from the $282 million (euro 216 million) invested in the first quarter of 2008.
  • Switzerland saw its quarterly investment increase nearly tenfold to $88 million (euro 67 million) in eight deals from $9 million (euro 7 million) in two deals.
  • In Denmark, venture investment fell 26% from $115 million (euro 88 million) in the first quarter of 2008 to $85 million (euro 65 million) in the most recent quarter
  • Spain saw investment climb 22% to $37 million (euro 28 million) from $30 million (euro 23 million).

*All Europe investment figures based on U.S. Federal Reserve weighted conversion rate of 1.30647

About Salvatore Genovese
Salvatore Genovese is a Cloud Computing consultant and an i-technology blogger based in Rome, Italy. He occasionally blogs about SOA, start-ups, mergers and acquisitions, open source and bleeding-edge technologies, companies, and personalities. Sal can be reached at hamilton(at)sys-con.com.

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