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Terra Firma’s Hands Says Europe Needs Labor-Market Reform

Guy Hands, chairman and founder of private-equity firm Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd., said economic growth in Europe will remain sluggish and volatility may persist for as long as two decades unless it undergoes a labor-market overhaul.

The continent should make changes to labor and market practices similar to those made under former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Hands said today at a conference in Boston. Schroeder a decade ago unveiled a flexible labor-market and welfare plan that economists credit with reinvigorating the German economy.

Hands said private-equity firms can find opportunities in Europe despite the slow economic growth by investing in “zombie companies that have banks breathing down their necks” and businesses that could benefit from a strategic or management overhaul. Many European banks are also gradually starting to sell distressed assets, Hands said.

London-based Terra Firma, started by Hands in 1994 as Nomura International’s Principal Finance Group, has invested more than 16 billion euros ($21 billion) in 33 businesses since then, according to the firm’s website.

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