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NEWS from the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Contact: Press Office 518-474-4015

DiNapoli Announces New $7 Million Investment in Northern Ireland

March 24, 2016

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) is investing $7 million (£5 million) in Northern Ireland through the Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Growth Fund (NI). The fund, managed by Kernel Capital, was established in 2013 by Invest Northern Ireland and Bank of Ireland to assist Northern Ireland based SMEs to accelerate growth.

“We’re pleased to announce another investment in Northern Ireland’s dynamic economy that will provide a solid return for the New York State Common Retirement Fund,” DiNapoli said. “Northern Ireland is on the move, as I saw firsthand during a recent visit. The peace process has opened doors and created economic opportunities for all communities. We’re proud to be able to play a part in Northern Ireland’s economic resurgence. This partnership will benefit our retirees, taxpayers and Northern Ireland for years to come.”

Welcoming the announcement, First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster MLA said: “This significant investment by the New York State Common Retirement Fund demonstrates a solid commitment to helping Northern Ireland's businesses grow and is a real endorsement of the strong entrepreneurial spirit which exists in Northern Ireland’s business community. In the last couple of years our economy has grown from strength to strength and this added investment, combined with Kernel Capital’s impressive track record of investing in high growth companies, will continue to support Northern Ireland’s thriving business community into the future.”

The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: “This investment by a major international pension fund is a vote of confidence in the north of Ireland, in particular our economy and demonstrates a strong commitment to help businesses here. Kernel Capital has a track record of investing with high growth export focused companies and this new investment will allow this fund to continue to help bridge the gap in funding available to our small business community and boost the confidence of those in the start-up and growth phases of business development.”

Northern Ireland Government Minister Jonathan Bell said: “I welcome this investment which once again demonstrates a strong commitment to Northern Ireland’s economic future by Tom DiNapoli and the New York State Common Retirement Fund. The BOI Kernel Capital Growth Fund has already made an impact through its equity investments in Northern Ireland companies and this additional investment will give a boost to companies with high growth potential and will generate new opportunities for Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurial and business community.”

“Comptroller DiNapoli has been a peerless ambassador for the work of building the hard won peace in the North of Ireland with jobs and investment,” said former Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. “His latest investment in the cream of our entrepreneurial talent will not only underpin the new Belfast we are creating but serve as a beacon to attract other investment funds. We are indebted once again to the visionary and exemplary leadership of Comptroller DiNapoli and look forward confidently to the returns this investment will bring to the public workers of New York state and the peace builders of the north of Ireland.”

“Through this commitment the New York State Common Retirement Fund is demonstrating an appreciation of the commercial opportunities created by innovative export focused Northern Ireland companies,” said Niall Olden, Managing Partner of Kernel Capital. “This commitment, combined with the new investment from Invest NI and the existing commitments of Invest NI and Bank of Ireland, ensures the Fund is well positioned to invest throughout Northern Ireland and to accelerate value creation.”

“We are very pleased to be investing in the Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Growth Fund, and backing its strong team that focuses on opportunities in the Northern Ireland market," said Stephen O’Neill, Managing Director of 57 Stars. “Northern Ireland enjoys an innovative technology sector and a highly skilled workforce, and we look forward to Kernel Capital backing a diversified portfolio of Northern Ireland companies which we anticipate will generate attractive returns for the New York State Common Retirement Fund.”

Kernel Capital is one of the largest venture capital firms providing equity to technology, life science and general industry companies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Growth Fund is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.

The Fund's investment in Kernel Capital comes from its $115 million Emerging Europe Fund. The firm was selected following an analysis by 57 Stars LLC, which manages the Emerging Europe Fund.

The Common Retirement Fund and 57 Stars continue to seek out opportunities throughout Northern Ireland that meet fiduciary standards and anticipate total investments of approximately $30 million there. Allocations from the Emerging Europe Fund contain strict non-discrimination safeguards.

The Fund previously invested in Crescent Capital, a Belfast-based venture capital fund manager that has supported and built creative companies throughout Northern Ireland.

About the New York State Common Retirement Fund

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third largest public pension plan in the United States with more than one million members, retirees and beneficiaries from more than 3,000 state and local government employers.

The Fund has a diversified portfolio of public and private equities, fixed income, real estate and alternative instruments and has consistently been ranked as one of the best managed and best funded plans in the nation. The Fund’s fiscal year ends March 31, 2016.