3i Group plc (LSE: III) is a global private equity company headquartered in London, United Kingdom.

It has offices in 12 countries across Asia, Europe and North America and had total assets under management of £9.6 billion as at 31 March 2010.

It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

The company was formed in 1945, as the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation (ICFC), by the Bank of England and the major British banks to provide long term investment funding for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Its foundation was inspired by the government, and resulted from the recognition in the 1930s, given new impetus in the postwar era, that smaller businesses faced a gap in available corporate finance due to banks being unwilling to provide long-term capital and the companies being too small to raise capital from the public markets.

During the 1950s and 1960s, and particularly after 1959 when the shareholder banks allowed it to raise external funds, ICFC expanded to become the largest provider of growth capital for unquoted companies in the United Kingdom. In 1973 ICFC acquired Finance Corporation for Industry, a sister company also formed in 1945 which focused on finance for large companies, and was renamed Finance for Industry (FFI). In the 1980s FFI became a leading provider of finance for management buyouts, and expanded internationally. In 1983 the company was renamed Investors in Industry, commonly known as 3i.

3i Group was created in 1987 when the banks sold off their stakes to form a public limited company. In 1994 the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of £1.5 billion. Until that time the company had only managed its own portfolio of investments, but in 1994 the company began managing funds for external investors. Since that time the company has continued its international expansion, making a number of acquisitions in Europe, Asia and the US.

Source: Wikipedia