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April 14, 2009

Private Equity appetite for slowdown-resilient Education Cos. soars

Press Release

Over 80% of Private Equity and Venture Capital investors surveyed by Venture Intelligence in its newly released “Private Equity Pulse – Education” report, plan to make an investment in Education companies during the next 6-8 months. With an estimated $40 billion market for private institutions and a CAGR of 8.6%, it is no surprise that PE & VC investors are looking to ramp up the 30 investments (worth over $300 million) they have already made in Education-related companies, the Venture Intelligence report indicates.

“In the current uncertain economic environment, the attractive and predictable rates of return of the Education industry, is serving as a magnet for PE investors,” points out Arun Natarajan, CEO of Venture Intelligence. “In fact, in another poll which we had done in end 2008 among PE investors, Education had received thrice as many votes as the next favorite sector in terms of attractiveness for investments in 2009,” Mr. Natarajan added.

Despite the overall optimism, investors have their own set of concerns, the topmost being the regulatory uncertainty surrounding “for profit” ventures in the K-12 and higher education segments and the lack of scalability of ventures in “non formal” segments. Over half the fund managers surveyed by Venture Intelligence felt that regulatory hurdles are a significant deterrent to the free flow of investments into the Education industry. The lack of quality teachers and political interference also figure in the list of concerns.

Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, are optimistic and resourceful. And those interviewed in the PE Pulse report seem confident that the constraints facing their industry can be overcome. For instance, Vinay Pasricha of Wigan & Leigh College (India), a vocational education firm that has raised Private Equity funding, feels there is enough scope to create scale in the unregulated segments of the industry – both within and outside India. "Tell me a sector where you do not face regulatory uncertainty," he asks adding that "Education, apart from healthcare, is the only mass growth opportunity that will continue to flourish during any economic downturn”.

Incisive Articles
The report features an article by a team from The Parthenon Group highlighting how investment opportunities in India’s education industry can generate high returns even in an unfavorable economy. Leading Private Equity firms like India Value Fund and Sequoia Capital India weigh in with their thoughts on the Higher Education and the Tutoring segments respectively. Dushyant Singh, Director (Strategic and Commercial Intelligence) of KPMG's Transaction Services practice, elaborates on one of the most exciting segments: the Kindergarten-to-Class 12 segment (K-12).

Will the boom in for-profit education ventures benefit only the economically better off sections? In her article, Reema Shetty of Kaizen Education Fund, assures us that there is no conflict between delivering high quality inclusive education and providing high returns to investors. Vignettes from PE-backed education ventures in other countries, highlighted in another article, also support this.

Given the significant regulatory challenges facing the industry, this report also features the expert views of top corporate law firms - ARA Law and Dhir & Dhir Associates.

For the convenience of entrepreneurs, the report provides a listing of Private Equity and Venture Capital funds keen to invest in this industry. A directory of investment advisory firms, who provide value-added intermediation services with a special focus on Education, has also been included.

The Private Equity Pulse on Education can be downloaded from the Venture Intelligence web site on http://ventureintelligence.in/pepulse_edu.htm