MARKETS: Wilbur Ross to seek $1-2 bln for new fund.
* WL Ross "coming to market amid historically low interest rates"
WL Ross & Co., run by 76-year-old turnaround financier and incoming Bank of Cyprus boss Wilbur Ross, is seeking $1 bln to $2 bln for its next private-equity fund, according to news reports.
The business news service Bloomberg said the target for Ross' sixth main fund would exceed the $640 mln the New York-based firm completed raising in 2012 while falling short of the $4 bln it gathered for its fourth fund in 2007.
In marketing his prior fund, Ross, whose firm oversees more than $7 bln in client assets, faced questions from investors about succession plans and whether he would continue to guide the New York-based firm he founded in 2000. WL Ross eventually rounded up $2.2 bln in capital, which included the main fund, $560 mln in separate accounts and about $1 bln from clients investing alongside the fund who weren't charged annual management fees.
In March, WL Ross named long-time partner Stephen Toy and Greg Stoeckle as co-leaders of the firm with Ross remaining as chairman and adding the title of Chief Strategy Officer. Stoeckle joined from Invesco Ltd., the Atlanta-based money manager that acquired WL Ross in 2006.
"With Stephen leading the investment side of our business and Greg in charge of all the other aspects, I will now have more time to devote to developing and implementing the macro strategies that have always been central to our portfolio decisions," Ross said at the time.
The firm's 2012 fund was marked at 1.6 times cost and had a 24% net internal rate of return as of June 30. The 2007 pool had a 1.5 times multiple and a 9.9% net return rate, according to Bloomberg.
Ross, who heads a group of investors pumping about 400 mln euros ($509 mln) into Bank of Cyprus as part of the EUR 1.1 bln capital increase to strengthen the lender, is widely expected to control the board after the November 20 shareholders' meeting, where he will exert his 19% voting power to install Deutsche Bank's former CEO Josef Ackermann as Chairman.
In an interview with the Financial Mirror, Ross had said that he wanted to take Bank of Cyprus "from resuscitation to growth" setting his sights on the country's future potential in the sectors of energy and privatisations.
"I do not strip assets or liquidate companies. I try to breathe life back into them," he had said in the interview.
Bloomberg said WL Ross "is coming to market amid historically low interest rates and a paucity of defaults that has made it difficult for distressed-debt focused funds to find deals in the U.S."
Oaktree Capital Group LLC, the world's largest distressed-debt investor, is seeking to raise a $3 bln fund along with a $7 bln reserve pool it would deploy if the economic recovery falters and defaults rise, three people familiar with the matter said last month.
Ross, a former restructuring adviser at global investment bank Rothschild Inc., started WL Ross with $440 mln in committed capital. Previous funds amassed distressed holdings in steel, coal, textiles and auto parts. He made it onto Forbes' August 2014 list of the world's billionaires, with a net worth of $2.9 bln.
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