KKR is expanding its operations to target more takeovers in the UK, as the record-breaking pursuit of British companies by private equity groups reignites a debate over the role of the buyout industry in the economy.

KKR will set up a new team of five dealmakers to focus on buying British companies, the heads of its European buyouts business said in an interview with the Financial Times.

“The idea is to have a few more British people covering British companies from a relationship perspective than we have in the past,” said Mattia Caprioli, co-head of KKR’s European private equity business.

There will be “dedicated people covering the UK proactively as a main job”, he added. Its London staff are moving to a larger office in Mayfair’s Hanover Square.

A combination of Brexit and the pandemic have depressed valuations in Britain, prompting private equity groups to snap up companies there at the fastest pace in history. Buyout groups have bought or announced bids for 366 UK companies so far this year, the most for a comparable period since records began in the 1980s, according to figures from Refinitiv.

“There’s more value at a high level in the UK than there is in other markets,” Caprioli said. Companies in the FTSE 100 index are valued at similar multiple of their earnings as they have been for years, he said, whereas valuations have risen in many other countries.