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Curro makes first cross-border school acquisition

Curro will pay R180 million for Windhoek Gymnasium, an independent school in Namibia.

FILE: The Curro Private School in Roodeplaat. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - South African private education group Curro Holdings has acquired its first school outside its home market, the company said on Tuesday, signalling it wants to expand into the rest of the continent.

Curro, which abandoned a takeover bid for smaller rival Advtech in July, will pay R180 million for Windhoek Gymnasium, an independent school in the capital of neighbouring Namibia.

If approved by antitrust authorities, the transaction will add 1,500 students to the 36,000 Curro has on 42 campuses in South Africa, the company said.

Curro, which raised R740 million in May to buy new schools, said it wants to expand enrollment at Windhoek Gymnasium to 2,600 as it pushes toward a goal of 80 schools and 90,000 students by 2020.

Before letting go of its bid for Advtech due to opposition from the target's management and parents, Curro chief executive Chris van der Merwe referred to a possible merged entity as a "continental champion" of $1.5 billion.

Advtech earlier this year bought a school in Botswana and this month said it plans to raise R850 million for further acquisitions. Growing African economies have created a surging market for education among an expanding middle class unsatisfied by underfunded state schools.