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Bridgepoint in the News

04 December 2013

Bridgepoint to acquire Cambridge Education Group

Cambridge Education Group (‘CEG’), the specialist provider of foundation programmes and English language training for international students wishing to prepare for university, is to be acquired by Bridgepoint, the international private equity firm, in a transaction totalling £185 million in enterprise value and resulting in an acquisition multiple of 11x current year forecast EBITDA. The business was sold by Palamon Capital Partners who acquired the group in 2007.

Fergus Brownlee, Chief Executive of Cambridge Education Group, said the acquisition will enable the group to maintain its commitment to the highest standards of academic excellence.

He added: "The group has undergone a sustained period of expansion throughout the past seven years under the ownership of Palamon Capital Partners, which has driven strong value and enabled us to deliver our global strategy for growth.

"It is our focus on quality at every stage - and the outstanding success of our students - that has made us one of the fastest growing independent education providers in the world.

"We now have a strong platform for further growth and we are delighted that the recent acquisition by Bridgepoint will allow us to progress as an organisation, whilst developing and maintaining local partnerships that will enable us to deliver the highest standards of academic quality our students demand."

Chris Busby, the partner responsible for Bridgepoint's investment activity in the UK, added: 'Cambridge Education Group has grown substantially, extended its teaching, targeted new markets and importantly, delivered strong academic results. Our investment will provide the team with additional financial capacity and reach to accelerate its push further into international markets and realise its ambitions in a growing market.'

Established in 1952, the company is a leading player in the international schools market, providing pre-university education to more than 4000 students recruited from over 95 countries via its global marketing network. Cambridge Education Group operates four divisions in three countries: CATS, a sixth form college network with campuses in Cambridge, Canterbury, London, and Boston in the US; 'Foundation Campus' programmes through partnerships with 20 universities in the UK, US and Netherlands; the College of Visual & Performing Arts in Cambridge; and, English as Foreign Language ('EFL') schools, operating under the 'Stafford House' brand.

An international student typically has two options for entering into university outside of his home country: either by direct entry or by using so called 'pathway preparation programmes'. Cambridge Education Group addresses the UK and US pathway market through 6th Form colleges in the UK and High School Diploma programmes in the US. Additionally, the company provides shorter one year programmes (Foundation Courses) targeting students with High School equivalent diplomas wishing to upgrade their academic skills to enter higher ranked universities.

The international student market offers long-term sustainable growth. It benefits from the emerging middle classes in high growth economies able to fund a Western education and increasing demand for degrees from UK and US universities in emerging international labour markets where the reputation of Western academic institutions remains high. CEG's key source markets are China, South Korea, Brazil, Russia, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, all of which are forecast to enjoy high growth rates in GDP and where, in certain cases, there is a shortage of higher education places. These factors create the opportunity for 'Pathway providers' such as CEG to focus on bringing international students to Western universities

Debt for the transaction was provided by HSBC, GE, Bank of Ireland and Alcentra. Advisers involved in this transaction included:

For Bridgepoint:

- Rothschild (advisory)

- Travers Smith (legal)

- PWC (financial / tax / structuring)

- Parthenon (commercial)

- GK (political)

- Marsh (Insurance)

For Palamon Capital:

- DC Advisory (advisory)

- Slaughter & May/Eversheds (legal)

- PWC (financial)

- Parthenon (commercial)

For CEG management:

- Macfarlanes (legal)

- PWC (advisory)


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