NEW YORK (HedgeWorld.com)–Private investments in public equity rebounded in the fourth quarter of 2004 to a record 1,269 transactions, according to San Diego-based Sagient Research Systems. But the combined value of these deals, US$15.49 billion in equity and equity-linked capital, remained below the 2000 peak.

Sagient ranked Roth Capital Partners LLC of Newport Beach, Calif., as the top investment bank in terms of number of PIPE transactions and Rodman & Renshaw LLC, New York, as No. 1 in dollars raised. Omicron Capital LP, St. Louis, topped the list of most active institutional investors in PIPEs during 2004.

Some of the names in the Sagient rankings, such as Duncan Capital LLC, New York, manage a hedge fund that focuses primarily on PIPEs. Others, such as Ramius Capital Group LLC, New York, are multi-strategy hedge fund shops.

Typically, venture capital firms lead PIPE transactions, in which a group of financiers privately buys the securities of a public company, usually at a discount. But an estimated 90% of these financing arrangements involve at least one hedge fund.

There are probably fewer than 100 strategy-specific hedge funds that specialize in PIPEs, but as many as 1,000 hedge funds may participate opportunistically ().

Sagient Executive Vice President Robert Kyle commented, in a statement, that 2004 was a roller coaster ride in the PIPE market. After a record-setting first quarter, deal flow dropped off dramatically in the second and third quarters, then rebounded.

Activity may have been dampened by published reports that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating PIPE financing. At issue in particular is alleged trading on insider information by deal participants, such as short selling a company before a transaction becomes public.

Contact Bob Keane with questions or comments at: bkeane@investmentadvisor.com.