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Inspired buys schools in Belgium, Italy

London- and Johannesburg-based international schools group Inspired has acquired a school in Belgium and signed deals to buy two providers in Italy. The acquisitions take Inspired’s total network to 23 schools and 15,000 students across four continents, with more centres planned in Africa and Latin America.

The acquisition of the International School of Europe Group added four schools to Inspired's portfolio. Photo: IS Milan.

HIG Capital said the sale of ISE represents “an outstanding result for HIG and its investors”

“This summer we’ve really ramped up the European side of our group,” Nadim Nsouli, founder and chairman of Inspired, told The PIE News.

“We’ve focused on the premium segment of the market – we believe that we want to offer the best education facilities for the children and it’s hard to do that if you’re not in that segment.”

“We are excited to join the Inspired community of schools that will provide additional opportunities of growth”

Earlier this month, Inspired acquired St John’s International School in Waterloo, Belgium for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 1964, the school offers international baccalaureate and diploma programmes to 700 students from the ages of two to 18.

Inspired has also agreed to acquire two K-12 providers in Italy: St Louis School of Milan, which teaches upwards of 1,000 students, and International School of Europe Group, which teaches some 1,800 local and expat students in Milan, Modena, Monza and Siena.

The acquisition of St Louis will provide “multiple opportunities for growth”, according to its founder, Luciana Vescovi.

ISE, which was founded in 1957 by the Formiga family, is being sold by HIG Europe, the European arm of private equity firm HIG Capital, which bought a stake in the group two years ago.

Details of the sale have not been disclosed, but Raffaele Legnani, managing director of HIG and head of the firm’s activities in Italy, said the sale represents “an outstanding result for HIG and its investors”.

“We are excited to join the Inspired community of schools that will provide additional opportunities of growth for ISE’s students and teachers,” commented Paolo Formiga, ISE’s current CEO.

The sale is expected to be completed in mid-September.

Inspired, which operates schools in Europe, Australia, Latin America and Africa, has undergone a period of rapid expansion over the last year, backed by education-focused investment firm Educas.

It bought Umlahanga College in Durban, South Africa, in June, following acquisitions in Colombia, Kenya and Switzerland late last year.

Nsouli, a former private equity investor who founded both Educas and Inspired, said that the group is also expanding through adding capacity to its existing campuses and building new schools.

“We’re focused on growth, so obviously the European schools we can improve and grow, but the ones in emerging markets like South Africa, Kenya, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, we’re adding capacity because huge growth in middle classes and the shift towards private education is driving growth there.

“In South Africa we’re building on average two new schools a year and each one will have about 2,000 children,” he said.

Inspired is also building its second school in Nairobi, Kenya, which is due to open in September 2017, and one in Medellin, Colombia, which will open the following year, he added.

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