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Inspired to grow with minority stake sale

The Inspired group of premium international schools will step up its aggressive global growth strategy after selling a minority stake to UK-based private equity firm TA Associates, its founder has said.

Inspired has sold a minority stake to private equity firm TA Associates.The international schools group is also in talks over "four or five" school acquisitions. Photo: inspirededu.

The group has ambitions to move into the GCC and Asia

The amount of the investment, described by Inspired in a statement as “significant”, has not been disclosed.

However, TA Associates’s backing will enable Inspired, which teaches 19,000 students at 35 schools around the world, to continue its strategy of growth through a combination of acquisitions and new builds, its founder and chairman Nadim Nsouli told The PIE News.

Inspired already has plans underway to open five new schools: two in Italy, in Milan and Sienna; one in Nairobi, Kenya; and two in South Africa, in Johannesburg and Durban.

“In terms of green fields, Africa will continue to be a focus”

The group is also in talks over “four or five” school acquisitions, Nsouli confirmed. “If we can acquire three or four in the next 12 months, that will be in line with what we’ve done in the last four years,” he said.

The group’s rapid expansion has seen its portfolio multiply from four schools in South Africa in 2013 to 30 across Africa, Europe, Latin America and Australasia. Most recently it acquired two schools in Italy and Switzerland.

Whether the group builds or buys is determined by the market, Nsouli said. In many crowded European markets, establishing an entirely new school is challenging, and so growth in that region will be acquisition-led.

Latin American purchases are also particularly promising as Inspired is an early entrant to the premium schools segment of the market and “there are some really nice schools we can acquire”, Nsouli said.

He added: “In terms of green fields, Africa will continue to be a focus because there you don’t have many premium schools so far, so you really have to build them.”

In Kenya, for example, a growing middle class and limited state school provision make for an attractive investment environment.

The group has ambitions to move into the GCC and Asia, as well as expand its footprint in countries where it already operates, and is not limiting its scope for expansion to only specified countries.

“Remember, we’re not trying to sell a million iPhones,” said Nsouli. “Our schools are 1,000 kids or so, and any country has at least 1,000 kids that can afford a premium education.”

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