Dubai's Al Najah Education earmarks $150m for school buyouts, plans IPO

Singhdeo says company planning to start a premium Indian school in Abu Dhabi

Nrupaditya Singhdeo, chief executive officer, Al Najah Education, said company planning to start a premium Indian school in Abu Dhabi

Nrupaditya Singhdeo, chief executive officer, Al Najah Education, said company planning to start a premium Indian school in Abu Dhabi

Dubai-based Al Najah Education plans to complete acquisition of two schools in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region in the next eight months after allocating between $100 million (AED367m) and $150m (AED550m) for its two-year expansion plan.

A report by PwC Middle East, a consultancy, said over 175,000 new seats will be required in the K-12 segment in the next four years in the UAE, with 90 percent of it coming from private school enrollees.

Dubai will require 74,500 additional seats in 50 new private schools, while Abu Dhabi will need 62,000 more seats in 52 new private schools by 2020, it added.

Nrupaditya Singhdeo, chief executive officer, Al Najah Education, told Arabian Business the company has shortlisted a school for acquisition in Abu Dhabi while the other one would be in Kuwait or Qatar.

At present, the company owns four schools – three in Dubai, UAE, and one in Muscat, Oman. It owns four nurseries in the GCC - one each in Oman and four in the UAE and 20 childcare and three enrichment centres in Singapore.

The company’s expansion plan is not based on number of school/nursery acquires, but is on doubling the student capacity from present 14,000 to 28,000 in the next two years.

“We want to invest another $100m to $150m to build our business and scale it up to a size so that is a visible business which could either be listed or we could do a trade sale,” Singhdeo said.

On the listings plan, he ruled out the possibility of a GCC listing, referring to the US or Singapore stock exchange by March 2019.

“We will explore where it is the best market to do listing for educational companies or we can follow London depending on our [Avivo Group] healthcare listing [March 2017]. Our ultimate target is listing the education business by March 2019 and so we have two more years to grow the whole platform,” he added.

Prior to going public, the company will do a primary capital raise of $200m (AED734m) to $250m (AED917.5m), raising a capital of $250m (AED917.5m) through listing.

“So it ultimately becomes a billion dollar company when you do the valuation. Therefore, it becomes very attractive - from scratch to a billion dollar company,” he said.

Al Najah Education is also considering building and running a premium Indian school in Abu Dhabi, targeting the fee bracket of between $6,539 (AED24,000) to $10,899 (AED40,000) per annum.

“Abu Dhabi will be a market if we want to do it and not Dubai or Sharjah. It may have a capacity of 2,500 to 3,500 students that will be built up in phases,” he added.

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