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From lingerie to bio-tech: U.S. companies focus on Europe with expansions, acquisitions and venture capital

If you’re an expat executive, this is likely good news. If you’re a European entrepreneur, it’s even better news –  American capital increasingly is sloshing over into Europe, with United States-based companies devoting a significant percentage of their cash hordes to acquiring European companies, or expanding in Europe.

This week, there were two spectacular announcements. Wednesday, Microsoft executives confirmed the Seattle-based PC software pioneer acquired SwiftKey for $250 million. SwiftKey is a London-based startup that makes keyboard apps for Android and iOS devices and is already installed and used on some 300 million devices, according to TechCrunch. Samsung is the biggest licensee of SwiftKey’s predictive language software. SwiftKey technology uses predictive artificial intelligence technology to make using wireless devices easier and faster to use … with the potential to incorporate that tech into personal assistant apps.

Also Wednesday, San Francisco-based Expensify announced a new London hub, its first move outside the U.S. Expensify executives told VentureBeat Feb. 3 that the expense-tracking app already has 1,000 customers in the United Kingdom. David Barrett, founder and CEO of Expensify, told VentureBeat the U.K. is a “hotbed” for the fintech sector, “so London was an obvious choice for our international expansion.” Barrett acknowledged the company, known for its motto “expense reports that don’t suck,” is also looking at continental Europe.

That’s just the beginning:

• On Tuesday, New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson and London-based GlaxoSmithKline announced they’re collaborating in a 210 million euro venture capital fund that will invest in Europe’s life sciences/biotech sector. The U.S.-based pharmaceuticals giant and its British rival each will contribute more than 50 million euros to Medicxi Ventures. We’re not sure how this works, but Medicxi Ventures is based in London, Geneva and Jersey, the French/English tax refuge island off France in the North Sea. The Financial Times notes that Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline, along with London-based AstraZeneca, have invested in a 40 million pound fund, Apollo Therapeutics, that will help commercialize research at Cambridge University, Imperial College London and University College London.

• Cisco Collaboration chief Rowan Trollope revealed in a Jan. 29 blog post that the San Jose-based tech giant finalized its acquisition of online collaboration platform provider Acano, a videoconferencing/collaboration technology leader. Last November, Cisco agreed to buy the London-based startup – founded in 2012 by Norwegians including O. J. “Odd Johnny” Winge – for $700 million. (Winge is a former Cisco executive, if you’re wondering.) The deal marks the official consummation of an acquisition announced in November of 2015. To highlight the deal, Trollope and Acano CEO Winge released a video of themselves (above) discussing improved collaboration possibilities for the future.

Late last year, Cisco also signed an agreement with the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, to provide training to teachers and students through the Cisco Networking Academy Program, according to a 19 Jan. post on the Cisco website. The program will help students develop new digital skills “required in the workforce of today,” according to the post, ensuring greater employment opportunities. Cisco will expand its Networking Academy program, which is designed to give people next-gen skills, with courses focused on industry 4.0 and cybersecurity technologies.

2• Late last year, Wall Street alternative investment fund The Carlyle Group  acquired controlling interest in lingerie chain Hunkemöller from PAI Partners. Seriously.

We will have to take the company’s word for this, but the Hunkemöller lingerie brand apparently is chaud, chaud, chaud in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Hunkemöller is conquering Germany, and claiming an ever-larger market share in places known for taking their boudoir fantasies very seriously such as France, Spain and Scandinavia. In addition to eCommerce, the brand more than 700 brick-and-mortar stores across Europe.

Hunkemöller recently won the Lingerie Retailer of the Year award in all markets across Europe as well as the European Webshop and Cross Channel awards. Hunkemöller also came second in the European Retailer of the Year award, according to its website.

The capital is courtesy the Carlyle Europe Partners IV fund, a European-focused upper-mid market buyout fund, according to a news release.  This is hardly Carlyle Europe’s first rodeo. The fund has invested in Moncler, famous for its must-have down jackets that go for $1,000-plus and London-based health food chain Holland & Barrett.

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