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A worker is seen assembling an injection molding machine at a Husky Injection Molding Systems plant in Bolton, Ont., in a November 2005 file photo.

Canadian Private equity activity soared in 2011, eclipsing year-ago figures amid blockbuster deals like the $2.1-billion acquisition of Husky International by the OMERS pension fund and Berkshire Partners.

Disclosed buyout and private equity disbursements for the year totalled $11.5-billion, up 69 per cent over 2010, when deal values were $6.8-billion, according to a report prepared by the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and research partner Thomson Reuters.

The number of deals disclosed in the year rose to a record 235 last year, up 38 per cent from 170 in 2010.

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"Private equity investment made sizable gains in 2011," CVCA president Gregory Smith, a managing partner at Brookfield Financial Corp., said of the report. "Not only did we see the return of large-cap deals backing major firms in growth mode, we saw record levels of mid-market investment that engaged large numbers of small and medium-sized businesses."

Private equity deal-making hit a high in May, when the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) and Berkshire agreed to buy Husky, an Ontario-based injection-moulding company, from Onex Corp., one of Canada's top private equity firms.

It was Canada's top deal and also one of the largest private equity deals in North America for the year.

A slew of midmarket deals followed, including the $590-million acquisition of Canadian patent licensing company Mosaid Technologies in October by U.S. based private equity firm Sterling Partners.

The number of buyout and private equity fund realizations, or exits from investments, remained low for the year, the CVCA said, with only 56 in all of 2011, compared with 75 in 2010.

But they made up for that in part in the size of transactions, including the $1.32-billion sale by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan of its stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owner of the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs.

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