Lorna Whiston Schools sold to ChangedEdu

Acquisition by Singapore-based group part of investment in global education brands over next three to four years

Enrichment centre chain Lorna Whiston Schools has changed hands again - this time bought as part of a multimillion-dollar Asia expansion push by Singapore-based group ChangedEdu.

Its flagship United Square branch, spanning 7,400 sq ft over two floors, will grow its floor space by 3,000 sq ft as it adds a black box theatre and dedicated studios for O-level preparation classes.

The acquisition is part of an expansion announced earlier this year as ChangedEdu plans to invest about US$300 million to US$500 million (S$407 million to S$679 million) in global education brands over the next three to four years.

The group, which has a business focus on Asian students, also said yesterday that it will open a branch of American college counselling network Collegewise here later this year to advise students on overseas university applications.

The education providers for investment were "carefully selected", said ChangedEdu founder and chief executive Brian Rogove in a media release. He said: "A well-rounded education includes a good mix of academic and extra-curricular enrichment, and that is what we offer to all students."

ChangedEdu is also opening a Vietnamese branch of student support services provider Gateway Education next year, after the British-headquartered Gateway disposed of its majority shareholding to the firm in July. It already has offices in China, Britain and the United States.

ChangedEdu has also acquired six centres of language school Wall Street English in Ho Chi Minh City, with plans to open more there and in Hanoi over the next year.

ChangedEdu was set up last year in partnership with Belgian investment holding firm Verlinvest.

Verlinvest Asia's executive director Nicholas Cator told DealStreet- Asia in a July interview that there is a "large number" of opportunities to invest in education in Asia, with his firm's strategy focusing on both mergers and acquisitions as well as greenfield investments.

ChangedEdu's takeover of Lorna Whiston Schools comes on the heels of the brand's buyout last year by private equity firm Rising Tide Asia.

Lorna Whiston Schools, which was opened by a former teacher of the same name in 1980, is not the only private education operator here to have garnered hefty investor interest. Its United Square neighbour, The Learning Lab, another tuition chain, in 2014 sold a stake for around S$300 million to Boston-based private equity firm Advent International.