Saudi Arabia-based oil company Saudi Aramco’s corporate venturing unit has commited to invest up to $120m per year in European start-ups through Norwegian venture capital firm Energy Capital Management (ECM). Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV), which was formerly founded last month, said ECM would look for early-stage technology companies with products and services useful to Aramco as well as offering potentially “attractive returns on investment”. Arne Frøiland, a partner at ECM, told newswire Bloomberg: “We are seeking to make three or four investments a year,” adding that each may reach $30m in size. Ibrahim Al-Buainain, chief executive of SAEV, which is looking for a similar partnership in north America, said: “[ECM] brings a highly-respected team with established networks in the Europe oil and gas venture capital sector, a presence in key innovation centres in Europe, and a strong track record in oil and gas technology investing.” ECM previously managed investments for Statoil, Norway’s state-owned oil and gas producer. Statoil took some of its minority equity portfolio back in-house in April 2011 after setting up ECM in 2008 as an independent venture capital firm from its original Statoil Corporate Ventures unit but at the time said “ECM will remain Statoil’s preferred partner in the area of venture capital”. Frøiland told Bloomberg that ECM managed Statoil’s 26 venture investments from 2008 until June this year and the firm’s four partners had a track record of returns reaching about three times invested capital.

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