Gems Education eyes the Bahrain market

“In our region healthcare is a very promising area, particularly acute care when people need to be treated for months or years,” Al Kooheji said.

UAE-based GEMS Education plans to launch schools in Bahrain following a deal next year, according to the company’s majority shareholder, the Bahrain sovereign wealth fund.

The $11 billion Mumtalakat took a “significant majority stake” in Dubai-headquartered GEMS Education in October 2015, as part of an investment group that also included US private equity firm Blackstone.

CEO Mohammed Al Kooheji told Arabian Business that a deal is expected to be reached next year to open GEMS schools in Bahrain and, eventually, elsewhere in the GCC.

He said: “Education is another sector we are looking at. We announced a couple of years ago that we took a stake in GEMS. With Blackstone. And with them we are looking at a few opportunities – Bahrain is one of them, and elsewhere in the GCC.

“They would see ... [the opening of GEMS schools] from kindergarten right up.”

The education company announced last November it is raising $500 million through a loan facility, although a source said this would be used partly to refinance existing US dollar-denominated debt.

Dino Varkey, CEO of GEMS Education said in a statement: “Driven by our mission to put a quality education within the reach of every child, GEMS Education currently has schools in 13 countries and is evaluating future opportunities in Bahrain.”

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Al Kooheji said the GEMS expansion was part of a broader strategy by Mumtalakat to invest in stable industry sectors such as education and healthcare.

He revealed that the fund – with Italian healthcare firm KOS Group, in which it took an undisclosed equity stake last year – had identified an opportunity to provide palliative and other long-term care services in the GCC, and expects a deal to be reached by the second half of 2017.

“In our region healthcare is a very promising area, particularly acute care when people need to be treated for months or years,” Al Kooheji said.

“It’s cheaper for the government to use the private sector to take care of long-term ill patients than to keep them in hospitals.”

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