Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Blackstone invests in test prep firm Aakash

  • The PE firm is expected to pick up a 36.5% stake in Aakash for 1,350 crore at a valuation of over $500 million
  • Blackstone will help Aakash supplement its strong physical network by growing its digital segment

MUMBAI : Private equity firm Blackstone Group LP will invest in omni-channel education and test preparation firm Aakash Educational Services Ltd, the PE firm said on Wednesday.

Aakash is one of India’s largest test preparation companies, and helps students of classes 8-12 for medical, engineering and other competitive examinations. The digitally enabled company has more than 200 centres across 130 cities, employing over 2,200 teachers to help train more than 250,000 students.

While Blackstone did not disclose the financial details of the transaction, one person aware of the deal, requesting anonymity, said that the PE firm will pick up a 36.5% stake in Aakash for 1,350 crore at a valuation of over $500 million.

“The deal takes its (Blackstone’s) total private equity investments this year to $2 billion," the person said, adding that Blackstone has received approval from the Competition Commission of India to acquire a 51% stake in Aakash. “Blackstone will look to increase its stake at a later stage, but right now it has bought only 37.5% in the company."

Amit Jain, managing director, Blackstone, said it will help the company supplement Aakash’s strong physical network by growing its digital segment with an aim to create India’s largest omnichannel test preparation company.

“Unlike most other players, Aakash’s mission and business model have been to take high-quality test preparation education closer to the student’s home, rather than the student needing to migrate for it. Its 200 pan-India centres, powered with institutional academic pedagogy, enable this distributed delivery currently," he said.

Amit Dixit, head, India private equity, Blackstone, said the PE firm will look to grow Aakash’s business both through organic and inorganic growth. “Live tutoring, whether in physical or online classrooms, has proven to be an effective model globally for delivering consistent results in standardized tests. Aakash has been a leader in this model in India, delivering exceptional results in NEET and JEE examinations year after year. Our thesis is to accelerate AESL’s push in online live tutoring, both organically and through acquisitions."

Before the stake sale to Blackstone, Aakash was eyeing an initial public offering and had filed its so-called draft red herring prospectus with the market regulator in July 2018. However, it did not move ahead with the plans.

For the financial year 2018, Aakash reported revenue of 981.1 crore, as against a revenue of 729.6 crore in the previous financial year, data from its IPO filings shows. The company’s profit stood at 160.1 crore in fiscal 2018, growing significantly from 63.5 crore in the previous fiscal.

So far, the New York-based alternative assets manager has invested over $13 billion in India, divided almost equally between PE and real estate deals.

While its real estate investments stood at $6.6 billion as of end-September, private equity investments across 15 companies were at $6.2 billion.

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