Prov Equity Frontrunner for Study Group

(Reuters) – Private equity firm Providence Equity Partners is the frontrunner to acquire university programme provider Study Group with final bids due this week, two people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

The company, which media reports say is worth up to A$600 million ($523.6 million), is being sold by Australian private equity firm CHAMP which earlier this year looked at floating the business.

Final bids are due in Friday.

Providence was the frontrunner in the sale process although a deal had not yet been finalised, one of the sources said.

One of the rival bidders Kaplan Professional dropped out of the race several months ago.

The Australian Financial Review reported on Wednesday that CHAMP had signed a deal with Providence. It said in an unsourced report that other bidders including Bain Capital and Apollo Global had dropped out of the process.

Study Group International helps prepare students for university study in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, where it owns the Center for English Studies chain of language schools.

CHAMP bought the group from the Daily Mail Group in 2006 for A$176 million.

Study Group appointed Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank as joint lead managers on a possible IPO earlier this year.

A Study Group spokesman declined to comment. U.S.-based Providence was not immediately available to comment.

(Reporting by Michael Smith; Editing by Ed Davies)