Chinese bidder said to be dark horse for Singapore’s Canadian International School

Photo: Canadian International School (CIS) website

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.

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.