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Britain's 3i says no plans to raise new fund soon

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) - British private equity company 3i said on Thursday it had no immediate plans to raise a new fund despite a turnaround in its business since a change in leadership last year.

The owner of women's fashion chain Hobbs and Tommee Tippee baby bottle maker Mayborn has spent the last 18 months restructuring after shareholders criticised its poor share price performance and weak results from its buyout business.

"We obviously are focused on when is the appropriate time to launch a new private equity fund ... it is not something that is going to happen in this financial year or even in the next financial year," Chief Executive Simon Borrows told reporters after the company announced its interim results.

3i last raised a pan-European fund in 2006.

Borrows, a former investment banker who replaced Michael Queen last year, said the company was talking to investors but felt it needed to give its current private equity team longer to show evidence of a good run of investments and exits.

3i said private equity divestments, known as realisations, had generated proceeds of 528 million pounds ($844.3 million) in the six months to September 30, including the sale of Norwegian-based Xellia Pharmaceuticals and UK software provider Civica.

As a result of meeting its goal for gearing of less than 20 percent and gross debt below 1 billion pounds, 3i is going ahead with plans announced earlier in the year to boost shareholder payouts with a special dividend.

It proposed paying 20 pence per share for the year to March 2014, including an annual base dividend of 8.1 pence.

3i said net asset value per share, a key measure for valuing its portfolio, had increased to 322 pence from 311p six months earlier, but analysts said this was below estimates.

(Editing by David Goodman and David Holmes)