Partners Group, the global private markets investment manager, has agreed to acquire a controlling stake in Guardian Early Learning Group ("Guardian"), one of the largest childcare groups and providers of early childhood education in Australia, on behalf of its clients. The stake is being acquired from the Asian private equity firm Navis Capital Partners. The transaction gives Guardian an enterprise value of approximately AUD 440 million and is expected to close in the first quarter of this year.
Founded in 2004, Guardian today owns 71 early learning centers that provide more than 10'000 families and their children with high-quality early learning and care on a daily basis. In addition to its local community centers, Guardian is Australia's leading provider of company-sponsored childcare centers, providing the staff of some of the country's leading corporations with on- or near-site care for their children. Guardian is also developing, designing and constructing ten new childcare centers, which will become operational over the next 12 months.
Following the investment, Partners Group will draw on its long track record of investment in the childcare and education sectors globally to support the Guardian management team's growth aspirations for the business as it continues to expand its network of centers.
Tom Hardwick, the founder and CEO of Guardian, comments: "We are thrilled to welcome Partners Group as our new majority shareholder - it is a real honor that a global investment group with the prestige, size and experience of Partners Group has chosen to back our vision to grow the size and quality of our business. We are looking forward to working with Partners Group to pursue our business objectives and in the process enhance the quality of the early learning and care experience we provide to families in the communities we serve."
Cyrus Driver, Managing Director and Head Private Equity Asia, Partners Group, will join the Board of Guardian once the transaction completes. He states: "Early childhood has been proven to be a crucial stage for a child's learning and development and innovators like Guardian provide an essential service in society. With its strong reputation, Guardian has a great opportunity to continue its robust growth and provide more children across Australia with the benefits of high-quality early-years education. We look forward to working with Tom and his management team."
In the past decade, Partners Group has made over 15 direct investments in education-related businesses including Permotio (ISP), Busy Bees, Nord Anglia and Grupo Santillana, AcadeMedia and Nobel Learning, the last of which was exited in 2015 at a gross return of approximately 4x cost. Most recently, in August 2015, Partners Group acquired KinderCare Education, the largest for-profit provider of early childhood education in the US and the parent company of KinderCare Learning Centers.