Vietnamese education group EQuest said to be raising $100m; TAEL to make partial exit

Vietnam’s EQuest Education Group is in the process of raising up to $100 million in a fresh funding round, sources privy to the matter told DealStreetAsia.

The investment will pave the way for a partial exit for Singapore-based private equity firm TAEL Partners, which had invested an undisclosed amount in EQuest in 2018, the sources added.

The proceeds from the fresh funding will likely be deployed by EQuest to drive its growth, which includes plans to acquire schools and build its platform further.

TAEL Partners did not respond to queries sent by DealStreetAsia, while EQuest declined to comment.

EQuest, formed through a merger in 2013 between EQuest Academy (founded in 2003) and the local education network IAE (established in 1999), is one of the largest private educational organisations in Vietnam.

Built by individuals who studied in the US, the UK, Australia, and Germany, the business operated under the brand name IAE till 2019. The company is chaired by Nguyen Quoc Toan. Meanwhile, Chew Mei Ying and Michael Sng Beng Hock of TAEL Partners are on its board.

EQuest currently owns and operates 16 educational units under four categories — K-12, tertiary, English language teaching (ELT) and enrichment courses, and edtech. It also caters to students seeking foreign certificates and homeschooling.

Its brands include Newton School, Ivy Global School, Phu Xuan University, Broward College, American Polytechnic College, Alpha School, IvyPrep, and iSmart. A lot of the assets were added to EQuest’s portfolio through M&As, such as Newton School, Alpha School, American Polytechnic College, Phu Xuan University, Saigon Polytechnic, and most recently Hanoi College of Economics and Technology.

According to information available on its website, more than 80,000 students enrol on EQuest’s platform every year.

EQuest is among the first education businesses in Vietnam to adopt the “buy-and-build” model, acquiring assets and adding them to its portfolio. Other local players who have the same strategy include Heritas Capital-backed BHL Education, Navis Capital Partners-backed IGC Group, and the Nguyen Hoang Group.

Besides backing EQuest, TAEL Partners has invested $1.6 billion in businesses across Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines, since its founding in 2007. In Vietnam, the firm has invested in taxi company Vinasun, agribusiness The PAN Group, and food producer GTN. It exited the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange-listed GTN in 2019 through a bulk stock deal with the dairy firm Vinamilk.

While deals in the education space entered a lull in COVID-hit 2020, there were several investments in the previous years.

In 2019, Everest Education bagged $4 million in a funding round led by Hong Kong-based Hendale Capital, YOLA raised $10 million from the education-focussed private equity investor Kaizenvest, and Baring Private Equity Asia invested in Vietnam USA Society English.

Major previous investments include TPG’s financing of Vietnam Australia School in 2017, and EQT’s investment in English centre ILA in the same year.

Singapore Reporter/s

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

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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.