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Sun European Partners has agreed to buy ESIM Chemicals from Ardian. Headquartered in Linz, Austria, ESIM is a provider of agricultural, crop protection and tree chemicals. The company emerged after Ardian carved-out the two business units: agrochemicals and fine chemicals from DPx Holdings B.V. in August 2015. “ESIM is a first-class business with flexible manufacturing facilities, strong R&D capabilities and a significant product pipeline, further supported by attractive end market dynamics," says Sun European Partners managing director Paul Daccus. Perella Weinberg Partners, EY and Sidley Austin are advising Sun European. The chemicals space has been ripe with M&A activity. Carlyle Group LP (Nasdaq: CG) agreed to pay $12.5 billion for Akzo Nobel NV’s specialty chemicals division and Huntsman Corp. agreed to purchase spray foam producer Demilec from Sun Capital Partners for $350 million. Ardian has been busy in dealmaking and fundraising recently. The firm agreed to sell its 49 percent stake in London Luton AIrport to AMP Capital; raised €230 ($283 million) for its new growth equity fund, Ardian Growth Fund II; and is partnering with Transatlantic Power Holdings to create a renewable energy platform called Skyline Renewables.

Covenant-lite loans are making a comeback, as competition in middle-market lending increases, says Ken Ken, CEO of Churchill Asset Management. Following on the heels of a record year of capital raising, debt financing provider Churchill recently closed a $300 million collateralized loan obligation fund, Churchill Middle Market CLO IV. Churchill is part of Nuveen, the asset management division of TIAA. Overall, Churchill manages more than $4.4 billion in committed capital. Read our Q&A: CLOs are huge draw for income-hungry investors, says Churchill CEO Ken Kencel.

For more on the lender front, Twin Brook Capital Partners grew significantly in 2017, including doubling deal value from the previous year, raising a second fund of $2.3 billion, and building the three-year-old firm into a major source of loans in the lower middle market, earning the firm Mergers & Acquisitions' M&A Mid-Market Award for 2017 Lender of the Year. The Chicago firm is the middle-market direct lending subsidiary of Angelo, Gordon & Co., a $28 billion alternative investment firm focused on credit and real estate investing. Twin Brook was founded in 2014 by seasoned middle-market lenders Trevor Clark and Christopher Williams, who had previously co-founded Madison Capital Funding. Twin Brook announced recently that Williams has stepped 8back from his role to attend to a health issue with an immediate family member. Read our Q&A: Lenders must be active partners, says Twin Brook's Trevor Clark.

Sony Music Entertainment Japan has acquired a 49 percent stake in the Peanuts cartoon franchise from DHX Media. Created in 1950, Peanuts is now published in 2,200 newspapers in 75 countries. O'Melveny represented Sony.

Kohlberg & Co. has acquired door manufacturer Senneca Holdings for undisclosed terms. Senneca produces flexible strip doors, glass doors, and data center enclosures under the Chase, Eliason, TMI, Thermoseal and SubZero brands. Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP represented Kohlberg which received financing from Antares Capital, Golub Capital, Partners Group and Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Fulcrum Equity Partners has acquired a majority stake in Yardley, Pa.-based Liberation Behavioral Health. Vocap Investment Partners invested alongside Fulcrum. “Following the successful Fund II investment in Addiction Campuses of America, we have been seeking an asset in our current fund to leverage our relationships and domain knowledge in the space.” says Fulcrum partner Tom Greer. “Liberation Way stood out due to its growth trajectory and reality-based treatment model."

JMI Equity has invested in Ciperhealth,, a patient communication, engagement and care coordination software company. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) has agreed to buy Aurka Pharma Inc. for up to $575 million. The target develops potential cancer and tumor treatments. Lilly will pay $110 million upfront and up to another $465 million based on milestone achievements. Baird is advising Aurka.

Pine Brook-backed Fair Square Financial, marketer of the Ollo credit card, has received a $100 million equity investment from the Orogen Group, led by former Citigroup (NYSE: C) CEO Vikram Pandit. Fair Square uses advances in machine-learning technology and data analytics to assess credit risk at an individual level, and qualify middle class customers who are often not adequately served by major financial brands.

For more deal announcements, see The weekly wrap, including: Aveanna's purchase of Premier Healthcare; Blackstone Real Estate's acquisition of Gramercy Property; Del Frisco's buying Barteca; and Starbucks' partnership with Nestlé.

To see which private equity firms are raising funds, including Behring Capital, Blackstone York Partners and Mile Rock, see PE fundraising scorecard.

Private equity firms, including KKR, LLR Partners, the Riverside Co., Shore Capital Partners, TA Associates, and strategic buyers, including Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH), are investing in eye doctors, dentists and veterinarians, plus revenue cycle management providers and other areas of healthcare that are ripe for consolidation, as Mergers & Acquisitions explores in our in-depth feature,Why private equity firms like veterinarians, opthamologists and dentists, and slideshow, 6 healthcare specialties driving M&A deals.

Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, wearable biometrics and precision medicine are transforming dealmaking in the healthcare sector, says Essam Abadir, the CEO of Aspire Ventures, which recently teamed with the Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health network of hospitals to launch a $300 million fund to invest in personalized medical devices and practices. Read our Q&A with Abadir.

Read our Q&A with GTCR managing director Aaron Cohen about The Leaders Strategy and the Chicago private equity firm's sale of Callcredit, a U.K. provider of real-time credit reports, toTransUnion (NYSE:TRU) for about $1.4 billion.

Check out our Q&A with ParkerGale partner Devin Mathews about the tech-focused private equity firm's recent investment in CultureIQ/Corporate Executive Board, M&A investing trends and how the Chicago firm uses its weekly podcast.

Keith Guilbault was promoted from COO to CEO at Mexican restaurant chain Qdoba. Apollo Global Management LLC (NYSE: APO) recently bought Qdoba from Jack in the Box Inc. (Nasdaq: JACK) for $305 million.

CIFC LLC, a credit manager specializing in U.S. corporate and structured credit strategies, hired Joshua Hughes as head of European marketing. In his role, Hughes will lead CIFC’s fundraising efforts in the U.K. and throughout Europe. He was most recently head of global distribution at Muzinich & Co.

Cary Burch was hired by LLR Partners as a senior advisor where he will help the PE firm seek investments in the enterprise software sector. Burch was most recently the chief innovation officer at Thomson Reuters (Nasdaq: TRI) and held CEO and COO roles at the company’s legal enterprise software company, Thomson Reuters Elite.

Read full coverage of Mergers & Acquisitions' 11th annual M&A Mid-Market Award winners: Campbell Soup, Huron Capital, Idera CEO Randy Jacops, LLR Partners, McGuireWoods, Stryker, Twin Brook and William Blair.

Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis joined SourceMedia in 2015 and serves as Managing Editor of Mergers & Acquisitions. He covers all aspects of middle-market deamaking, with a focus on strategic buyers and the consumer and retail sectors, and writes The Buyside column.