Dubai-based GEMS Education founder in talks to sell stake in school operator

Photo: GEMS Education

The founder of Dubai-based GEMS Education held talks to sell some of his majority stake in the private-school operator to raise as much as $200 million, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Sunny Varkey, who transformed GEMS into one of the world’s largest private education providers, is working with Rothschild & Co. to find potential investors, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private.

The bank has recently struggled to find any interested parties because of the coronavirus pandemic and the discussions may not result in a deal, the people said. Representatives for GEMS and Rothschild declined to comment.

The fallout of the pandemic is impacting education providers globally as schools and universities shut as part of lockdown efforts. Dubai, the region’s logistics and tourism hub, has introduced highly restrictive measures to battle the virus, such as closing its airport and imposing a 24-hour curfew. The government also halted all hiring and cut administrative spending by at least 20% to shore up its finances.

GEMS, which is backed by CVC Capital Partners, is offering deferments and discounts to parents of school children who can prove their financial situation has been impacted by the coronavirus. Parents in the United Arab Emirates spend more on education than families anywhere else in the world except for Hong Kong, according to a 2017 study from HSBC Holdings Plc.

London-based CVC Capital agreed to buy a 30% stake in GEMS from its backers including Blackstone Group Inc., Fajr Capital Ltd. and Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund last year.

Bloomberg

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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).

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  • 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.