GEMS plans $650m investment in emerging markets

Dubai-based schools operator says cash will be spent over next three to five years
Dino Varkey, group executive director, GEMS.
By Claire Valdini
Tue 06 Nov 2012 09:02 AM

Global Education Management Systems Limited (GEMS), which owns schools in ten countries, plans to invest up to US$650m in expanding its operations over the next three to five years, its group executive director told Arabian Business.

The Dubai-based schools operator said it plans to concentrate on emerging markets such as the Middle East, North Africa and India as it pushes ahead with expansion plans for up to 40 countries, said Dino Varkey.

“In terms of our next three to five years in terms of the global expansion… we are looking at investing anywhere between US$550m and US$650m,” he said.

“We are of course looking at expanding globally,” he added. “Today, we operate in ten countries from the US to China [and] I envisage that over the next three to five years we’ll look to be in anywhere between 25 to 40 countries.”

The growth will be funded through GEMS’ own funds, borrowing from banks and in the long term the institutional investor market, he added.

GEMS, which operates private schools in the GCC, US and India, opened its first school in Kenya this year and plans to expand into five other African countries including Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique.

A growing middle class across Africa is boosting demand for private schools, said Varkey.

“You are talking about the second fastest growing region over the last decade,” he added.

“Over 30m new households have joined the consumer class so obviously [there is] a fast rising middle class that’s highly ambitious and aspirational in terms of their children’s education,” he said.

GEMS in October said it planned to open ten new schools across the UAE over the next two years. The schools, which will include British, Indian, International Baccalaureate, US and dual curricula across a range of fee levels, are in various stages of development and will be open within 24 months, said Varkey.

New schools in the MENA region may include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Qatar, he added. 

“We see further expansion within Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman [though Oman] won’t be significant expansion but there are opportunities and we should have a school up and running within the next year there,” he said.

“We have smaller expansion ambitions within Kuwait but the key markets from my perspective are Qatar and Saudi within the GCC. Africa, Egypt, Libya, Morocco are key for us,” he added.

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