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Australia's PEP agrees to buy NZ's Academic Colleges Group

Australia's PEP agrees to buy Academic Colleges Group for undisclosed sum

By Suze Metherell

Sept. 16 (BusinessDesk) - Pacific Equity Partners, the biggest private equity firm in Australia and New Zealand, has agreed to buy Academic Colleges Group, the Auckland-based private educator, for an undisclosed sum.

ACG confirmed the sale following Australian media reports earlier this week that a sale of the education provider was underway. Last month the Australian Financial Review reported the price tag was about $530 million.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory and other approvals, and is expected to be finalised early next year, ACG said in a statement.

ACG runs seven schools and several tertiary training centres in New Zealand, as well as a school in Indonesia and one in Vietnam. The sale comes after the private education announced in May it was "considering options to accelerate its growth plans" after Australian media reported it had appointed UBS and Macquarie Capital after buyout offers from four private equity firms.

"PEP has been clear from the outset that it wants to work with ACG's existing education council, senior management team, principals and excellent teachers and tutors for the ongoing benefit of our students," ACG chairman John Maasland said. "The agreement will see ACG well positioned to expand and enhance our education services. This will include the growth of services for both international students both in New Zealand and offshore, which will provide for continued reinvestment in the group's domestic facilities and services."

ACG said it has more than 10,000 enrolled students and claims to be "New Zealand's leading and largest private education provider". The education firm bought the Yoobee School of Design for a net $13.3 million last year with potential earn-outs of up to $1 million depending on the 2014 earnings from the now defunct Renaissance Corp.

PEP has A$6 billion of funds equity funds under management, making it the largest private equity fund manager in Australasia, according to its website.

ACG has 20 shareholders according to records on the Companies Office, with Education Investment, an investment vehicle associated with ACG deputy chairman Danny Chan, owning 28 percent. Waterman Capital took a 24 percent stake in January 2013.

The acquisition is the Australian private equity firm's second New Zealand purchase in as many weeks, after it bought Manuka Health, the functional food and dietary supplement company, last Friday. The New Zealand Herald has reported the purchase price was $110 million. Watermann Capital was also a cornerstone shareholder of Manuka Health.


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