Private equity eyeing services 

A SMALL US-backed private equity fund is chasing new opportunities in the Australiasian oil and gas services space, Energy News has learned.
Private equity eyeing services  Private equity eyeing services  Private equity eyeing services  Private equity eyeing services  Private equity eyeing services 
 
Viburnum has a fund dedicated to oil and gas services and mining equipment, technology and services players.
 
The fund is backed by the Wyllie Group and four US institutional investors including the University of Texas.
 
Last year Viburnum helped Houston-based investment house SCF Partners acquire the Australian and Southeast Asian business of Cal Dive International and it was poised to take a 12% stake in junior oiler Empire Oil & Gas before it was pipped at the post by Chris Ellison's mining and services firm Mineral Resources.
 
The Wyllie Group-backed Viburnum could have ended a 12% stake in Empire.
 
The fund has $150 million available, which Viburnum managing director Marshall Allen said would give it enough for two or three deals.
 
"Our space is entrepreneurs valued between $10 million and $100 million," Allen said.
 
"Not massive but mid to early stage start-ups."
 
Allen said the fund's investments would be split between mineral and hydrocarbon firms.
 
This fund has been set up as a proof of concept for the region.
 
Allen said the fund's US partners had appetite for further investments beyond the $150 million available at this stage.
 
"If we had to deploy double that it would not really be a problem," he said.
 
Viburnum started out as a general private equity fund, at one stage owning the Dome Café chain in Australia. 
 
After the global financial crisis hit and Allen said the fund doubled down with the Wyllie family and also started doing more work with SCF.
 
"We started putting more money into oil and gas services," he said.
 
"We followed that rabbit hole up to US investment services and realised we had expertise in the resource services space. We have regional knowledge."
 
After hooking up with institutional investors in the US the first resources services fund was put together. 
 
That closed two years ago and one of its main investments is an oil and gas-focused business called the Kinetic Group. 
 
Within that business are a host of other businesses the fund picked up including mining wireline company Surtron Technologies. 
 
The bulk of its offerings are oil and gas related.
 
It also has the Centurion Group which houses Converse, Rentair, Seanic, Jacks Winches, Mining Camps Australia and Tristar Water Solutions.
 
Viburnum recently bought Imdex's chemicals business Wildcat, which will be backed into Centurion.
 
Two years ago the mining industry was in a very big hole and oil and gas seemed the way forward, but then the oil price fell.
 
"We did nothing for 18 months," Allen said.
 
"Now we're looking to put half the fund into oil and gas services around Asia and the rest into mining services.
 
When Viburnum gets involved with businesses it does not get too involved in their management, unlike other some other funds, Allen said.
 
"We find opportunities for them and help them with their financial structure," Allen said.
 
He admitted to being a "frustrated engineer" insisted he had no interest in getting involved with the day-to-day running of the businesses.
 
"We will sit on the board and have caveats over the company.
 
"We work with the management team that's in there."
 
Where it does get involved is in strategic matters and Viburnum also has a right of veto on decisions that may deviate from that strategy.