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Tue 29 Mar 2011 09:23 AM

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Dubai’s GEMS may IPO as school network grows, says exec

Schools provider to spend $100m on Kenya expansion; plans to be $60bn firm by 2024

Dubai’s GEMS may IPO as school network grows, says exec
Dino Varkey, senior director for business operations, said GEMS may list in the future

GEMS, the Dubai-based education provider, plans to spend around $300m on expanding its network of schools across Kenya and could list in the future, a senior executive said.

GEMS, which is the biggest private-schools operator in the UAE, said it aims to cater to five million students by 2024 and may offer its shares to the public to fund further expansion.

“The ambition that we work towards is five million students by 2024. If we got to the five million number as a conservative [estimate] we would be a $60bn company; we would be employing 450,000 teachers, 55,000 senior leaders - that’s the size of organisation that we are trying to build,” Dino Varkey, senior director for business operations, told Arabian Business.

Asked how the firm would fund the expansion, Varkey said it may look to an initial public offering to raise any additional capital.

“Today we are a private company, at some point in our future [we would IPO] but that’s not a decision that we’ve taken yet. It’s something for the future.”

The operator on Monday announced it would open its first Kenyan school in September 2012. The school, which will cater to over 2,000 pupils from ages 3 to 18, will cost the provider around $40-50m and will be the first of up to ten in the country.

“As a starting point we’re building our first school in Kenya… Very conservatively [I would say we are planning to open] between seven and ten schools,” said Varkey, adding that he estimates the group will spend around $300m in the country.

The Dubai-based group will also look at partnering with local Kenyan schools through public private partnerships, added Varkey. “We also believe there is a tremendous amount that we can offer in terms of perhaps helping the Kenyan government uplift and reform education in the public system so that’s a conversation [we are having].”

The operator also plans to open schools in other African countries including Uganda and South Africa. “Africa, specifically East Africa, is of critical importance,” said Varkey. “We’ve always had huge ambition for South Africa so there are a number of initiatives that we are pursuing in South Africa, Uganda,” he added.

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