A bidder from China has emerged as the lead contender in the race for Singapore’s Canadian International School (CIS) owned by private equity firm Southern Capital, three sources familiar with the deal told DealStreetAsia.
CIS is one of Singapore’s largest international schools with approximately 3,000 students across its two campuses in Lakeside and Tanjong Katong, according to its website. Offering kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12) learning, it primarily caters to students from local and expatriate families.
Chinese bidders for the asset include New York-listed Bright Scholar Education Holdings, which primarily focuses on K-12 education for international students, and China-based global investment firm Primavera Capital.
Bright Scholar operated 80 schools across ten provinces in China and eight schools overseas, as of February 29, 2020. In May, it announced an agreement to acquire a 51 per cent stake in China-based Linstitute, which offers online training services for Academic Olympiad and other international courses.
Primavera Capital targets investments in the education, financial services, consumer, healthcare and technology, media and telecom (TMT) sectors. In November 2019, it raised $3.4 billion for what is the second-largest China-focused fund raised by a local manager. It makes control-oriented and growth capital investments in established businesses primarily domiciled in China or with a significant connection to the region.
DealStreetAsia had in February reported that Singapore-based Global Indian International School (GIIS) and PE firm EQT Partners were among those to have formally expressed interest in CIS.
With GIIS in the lead, the sales process was put on hold, said an industry source, as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged countries globally, shutting down schools for months. It is understood that GIIS has lowered its bid, causing it to fall behind in the race.
Emails sent to Southern Capital, Bright Scholar, Primavera Capital and GIIS for this story did not elicit a response.
Bloomberg had in September 2019 first reported that middle market-focused Southern Capital was exploring options for CIS, including a potential sale that could fetch at least $500 million.
Southern Capital had partnered Hong Kong-based Headland Capital Partners, which has since been renamed as HPEF Capital Partners, to acquire CIS in December 2014.
The investment firms bought the asset from Knowledge Universe Education, an indirect subsidiary of Keppel Corporation, for S$460 million, according to WongPartnership that acted as a legal adviser to the acquirers.
Southern Capital continues to remain a majority stakeholder in CIS. It is unclear if HPEF Capital Partners, an HSBC spinout that had reportedly axed half its investment team in 2016 after halting fundraising for its seventh fund, retains a stake in the international school operator.