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Private-equity deals in the middle market increased in the third quarter to the highest level since the start of last year, a study showed.

The number of transactions valued between $10 million and $250 million rose to 33 in the third quarter, the most since the first quarter of 2009 and almost double the transaction volume in the first quarter this year, according to GF Data Resources. The research company, based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, looked at data from 151 firms with an average active fund size of $300 million.

The increase in deals indicates smaller funds survived the economic slowdown better than larger pools because they valued companies conservatively during the crisis, Andrew Greenberg, chief executive officer of GF Data Resources, said in an interview yesterday. Small buyout funds returned 12 percent on average for the three years through the first quarter, compared with losses for the largest funds, according to data compiled by London-based Preqin Ltd.

“The model of private-equity business ownership is still viable,” Greenberg said. “Even during their heyday, private- equity buyers in the middle market were paying reasonable prices and placing reasonable capital structures on their investments.”

Pricing of the transactions increased to six times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, up from 5.2 times in the first quarter of this year, according to the statement.

The strongest industries for private-equity deals were manufacturing, business services and health-care services as buyout firms sought out companies with “strong” revenue streams, Greenberg said.