($ billions) 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991

North America $7.0 $13.5 $11.4 $11.9 $5.2 $5.6

Europe 1.7 3.7 4.5 7.7 6.2 5.4

Asia/Pacific region 0.9 1.7 1.6 2.0 3.0 4.0

Source: Venture Economics/Advent International

* * *

"In terms of private-equity growth opportunity I would rank North America first right now, the Asia/Pacific region second, and Europe third," says Bob Gough, who is currently writing a book on the worldwide venture-capital industry, working in cooperation with Boston-based venture-capital firm Advent International. Gough reasons that while a strong economy has made Asia a player in private-equity markets, a sluggish economy has actually helped the United States by lowering the price of admission to many investments. Add to that "the general outflow of displaced but highly talented middle managers who've been forced to come up with their own creative opportunities," and you have a potent entrepreneurial mix. In the coming years Gough projects increases in private-equity investment in North America and Asia, with Europe remaining flat at best. -- Alessandra Bianchi