x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Gulf Capital invests $30 million in schools operator Evolvence Knowledge

Interest within the education sector has been heating up as private equity players uncover opportunities from an undersupply of quality education in the Gulf region.

EKI signed an agreement in 2006 with Repton School, one of the UK’s leading independent schools, to set up Repton schools across the Gulf region such as this one in Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper
EKI signed an agreement in 2006 with Repton School, one of the UK’s leading independent schools, to set up Repton schools across the Gulf region such as this one in Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper

Gulf Capital, the Abu Dhabi-based alternative asset manager, has announced a US$30 million investment in a business owning and managing schools in the UAE.

Evolvence Knowledge Investments (EKI) operates three schools in the UAE, including Repton School and Foremarke Hall, both in Dubai, and Repton School Abu Dhabi. It also holds a majority stake in Abu Dhabi’s oldest nursery, Humpty Dumpty. The investment — through Gulf Capital’s regional fund, Gulf Credit Partners — will be used to help the company open more schools elsewhere in the GCC.

“Gulf Credit Partners’ investment will help EKI achieve its ambitious growth plans at an exciting time for the GCC’s emerging education sector,” said Karim El Solh, the chief executive of Gulf Capital. “Gulf Capital has been an active investor in defensive sectors such as power, water, health care and food and this latest investment in education will complement our existing portfolio of defensive investments.”

Interest within the education sector has been heating up as private equity players uncover opportunities from an undersupply of quality education in the GCC. In May last year, Abu Dhabi-based Waha Capital said it aimed to invest up to Dh400 million in education and health. Media reported in May that Dubai-based Fajr Capital and Bahrain’s Investcorp Bank were considering buying a minority stake in Gems Education, the Dubai-based schools operator.

The total number of students in the UAE, estimated at about 900,000, has been growing at an annual rate of 5.8 per cent in recent years. Growth within the private education sector has grown at an even faster rate of 8.6 rate per year, according to Gulf Capital, citing data released by the Ministry of Education and National Bureau of Statistics.

As a leading private school operator, EKI was ideally positioned to take advantage of the growth, it said.

EKI is the education platform of the Evolvence Group, a Dubai-headquartered company focusing on asset management, education and retail. Khaled Almheiri, who worked in Abu Dhabi Investment Authority’s North America department before founding Evolvence in 2001, said the investment would allow EKI to expand its education platform across the Middle East. EKI signed an agreement in 2006 with Repton School, one of the UK’s leading independent schools, to set up Repton schools across the GCC.

Gulf Capital has been among the most active of regional asset management firms in recent months. Last week, it said it was selling 32 per cent of its stake in the energy company Metito Holdings to Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Japanese companies. In March it generated gains of more than $600m after another of the companies in its portfolio, Gulf Marine Services, completed an IPO on the London Stock Exchange.

With the latest deal, Gulf Credit Partners has now made six investments, deploying more than 60 per cent of its capital.

tarnold@thenational.ae

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