HONG KONG (Reuters) – Private equity firm Crescent Point, founded by former Morgan Stanley (MS.N) bankers, is looking to sell its controlling stake in Masterskill, Malaysia’s largest nursing training school, sources said, in a deal that could fetch more than $200 million.
The plan came after Masterskill Sdn Bhd shelved its plans for an initial public offering of shares last year when markets soured, the sources told Reuters this week.
One source said that Crescent Point wants to sell its stake in Masterskill for between $200 million and $250 million.
“Education is widely considered as a recession-proof industry in the financial crisis so the deal could be an attractive one to some private equity firms or strategic buyers,” said one of the sources.
“But the biggest problem is of course how to finance the deal,” he added.
In early 2007, Crescent Point, which focuses on markets in the Asia Pacific and Middle East, bought a controlling stake from Alloy Media Sdn Bhd, which held a 95 percent stake in Masterskill Sdn Bhd, according to local media reports.
Private equity firms, betting that Asia’s obsession with childhood education is recession-proof, are increasingly investing in the fast-growing private learning sector, industry experts have said.
Crescent Point was founded by three former veteran Morgan Stanley bankers in Asia — Sami Sindi, Richard Scanlon and David Hand. The firm was the second-largest shareholder in Malaysia’s budget airline company AirAsia Bhd (AIRA.KL) before it went public in 2004.
The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media. A Crescent Point representative was not immediately available for comment.
Masterskill Sdn Bhd, provides medical nursing training services through Malaysia’s Masterskill University College of Health Sciences.
Masterskill also has long-term contracts with the Malaysian government to help train nurses for domestic hospitals.
The planned sale of Masterskill has drawn interest from several private equity firms including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and the Carlyle Group but the two firms decided not to bid for various reasons.
Carlyle declined to comment, while a representative for KKR could not be immediately reached for comment.
However, the deal has also caught the attention of some strategic buyers in the education sector in Asia, including an Indian firm, which is studying financing options for the purchase, another of the sources said.
By George Chen and Stephen Aldred
(Additional reporting by Michael Flaherty, Editing by Jacqueline Wong)