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Small firms to benefit from pounds 184m fund; Euro rate boosts venture pot by pounds 40m.

Byline: TONY McDONOUGH

A VENTURE capital fund for small firms in Merseyside and the North-West will get pounds 40m more than originally expected when it launches in the summer.

The Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) yesterday invited fund managers to bid to run the pounds 184m Venture Capital and Loan Fund (VCLF), more than pounds 70m of which will be allocated to Merseyside.

The VCLF is bankrolled by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which pays out in euros. The North West was allocated 204m euros.

It was originally supposed to have been launched last summer and the currency exchange rate at the time would have made the fund worth around pounds 140m.

But the fall in the value of the pound against the euro in the months since means it has now grown to pounds 184m.

The VCLF will be split up into between four and six funds, with 40% of the fund ring-fenced for Merseyside firms.

The announcement may provide a boost for Liverpoolbased Alliance Fund Managers (AFM), which has managed Merseyside's ERDF-backed venture capital fund since 1996.

Finance director Lisa Greenhalgh last night told the Daily Post it intended to bid for at least one of the funds.

AFM, which is the fund manager for Merseyside Special Investment Fund (MSIF), had ambitions to run the entire VCLF.

But uncertainty and delays over the launch of the fund meant it was forced to announce eight redundancies in November. It was revealed yesterday one of those eight will be AFM managing director Mark Fuller, who has left the Pier Head-based company by mutual consent.

Mr Fuller joined AFM in 2002 and has agreed to continue to act as a consultant to the organisation. In an email to friends and colleagues, Mr Fuller said: "I have made many new friends and contacts and can say I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the challenges faced by MSIF and AFM in my time here in Merseyside.

"MSIF chairman Bill Furness has asked me to remain as a consultant to help with the maximisation of the returns from the investment portfolios."

AFM does have control of one part of a pounds 9m interim venture capital and loan fund put in place by the NWDA to last until the main fund is up and running.

Yorkshire Fund Managers is the other fund manager.

NWDA chief executive Steven Broomhead said: "We know this has been a long process, but we are now on track to have our long-term VCLF scheme available to business in the North West by the summer.

"I am delighted that we can now move forward with this vital fund.

"The procurement process will find our fund managers, with the opening of the fund shortly after."

CAPTION(S):

Mark Fuller, who is leaving Alliance Fund Managers
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2010
Words:463
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