Dubai's GEMS said to seek up to $1bn financing

Education provider reportedly aiming to raise funds to build 21 schools over next three years
Dino Varkey, group executive director, GEMS.
By Andy Sambidge
Fri 29 Mar 2013 11:46 AM

Dubai-based GEMS Education is reportedly seeking to raise between $650m and $1bn to build more than 20 new schools over the next three years.

The world’s biggest privately owned provider of school education is raising funds from debt, equity and real estate partnerships to build 21 new schools, including in the US and UK, CEO Dino Varkey said in an interview with Bloomberg.

For-profit GEMS, which operates more than 60 schools and colleges worldwide, will also use money raised to boost capacity at 10 existing institutions, Bloomberg said.

“There is a significant amount of demand in the UAE, but also huge demand across Africa, across east and south Asia,” Varkey was quoted as saying.

“Governments on their own cannot fund this demand, they cannot move fast enough to meet this demand.”

Varkey also told Bloomberg that GEMS won’t make a decision on an initial public offering (IPO) until it completes the current round of expansion.

“Four or five years from now, when the organisation is a different size and scale, that’s a decision we make at that point,” he said.

In December, GEMS drew criticism from students and their parents when it announced the closure of its Westminster School in Dubai, one of the biggest child-learning centres in the emirate.

The facility, located in Dubai’s Al Ghusais area, is attended by approximately 4,800 pupils from ages five to eighteen years old. In a letter sent to parents, GEMS said the Westminster School would shut in June 2014 with students being given priority placement in other GEMS institutions as far away as Ras Al Khaimah.

In October, GEMS said that it planned to open ten new schools in Dubai over the next two years as part of the firm's ambitious expansion plans.

GEMS also recently announced that it would be investing $650m in emerging markets to build schools in markets in Africa, the Middle East, India and South East Asia.

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