Hillhouse, Permira said to evince interest in EF Education First’s $2b China unit

Photo: Bloomberg

Private equity firms Hillhouse Capital and Permira are among suitors that have submitted first-round bids for Chinese operations being sold by EF Education First Inc., people familiar with the matter said.

Warburg Pincus is also among suitors that have expressed interest in part or all of EF Education First’s business in the country, according to the people. The sale could fetch $1.5 billion to $2 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

Education companies are looking to meet the needs of Chinese students and their parents who see fluency in foreign languages and academic excellence as giving an edge in the increasingly competitive job market. The nation’s online education market reached 252 billion yuan ($36 billion) in revenue in 2018 and is projected to grow at least 16% annually in the next 3-5 years, according to iResearch Consulting Group.

EF Education First, founded by Swedish billionaire Bertil Hult in 1965, provides both classroom-based and online English language training to kids and adults across Asia and Europe, its website shows. The company also offers educational tours and cultural exchange programs. It’s one of the largest English-language training providers in China, with over 300 schools across 60 cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Some bidders may only be interested in the children’s education business of EF English First and may not want to acquire its training operations targeting adults, the people said. No final decisions have been made, and there’s no certainty the suitors will proceed with firm offers, according to the people.

Representatives for Hillhouse and Permira declined to comment. Representatives for EF Education First couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, while a spokeswoman for Warburg Pincus couldn’t immediately comment.

Bloomberg

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.

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.