September 23, 2019 / 9:24 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Navis begins $500 mln-plus sale of Australia education equipment co-sources

* Navis Capital selling education supplier business

* Bids due Oct 9 (Adds Navis Capital comment)

By Paulina Duran

SYDNEY, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Malaysian private equity firm Navis Capital Partners said on Monday it had put its education supplies company Modern Star up for sale, and two sources said it was seeking over A$800 million ($542 million) for the business.

The firm and its advisers are seeking indicative bids by Oct. 9 for the company, which sells education equipment such as furniture and toys to early childhood learning centres in Australia, China and Singapore, one of the sources said, declining to be named because the information was private.

Sydney-based Navis Capital partner Philip Latham told Reuters the firm had so far received “more interest than I had expected” from local and international firms as well as from strategic and educational businesses.

He declined to comment on the price sought.

Kuala Lumpur-based Navis acquired Modern Star Pty in 2014 for an undisclosed sum in a deal valuing it at up to A$250 million. [reut.rs/2mpgdnb ]

Modern Star has made several acquisitions since then, including its 2016 purchase of Wisdom, a China-based provider of educational equipment and furniture to the kindergarten sector, according to its website.

According to the sources, close to one fifth of the over A$60 million in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the year ending June 2019 was derived from its operations in China.

The Malaysian firm has received interest from other Australian and offshore private equity firms, particularly those with an Asian-growth focus, the sources said.

Modern Star has delivered double-digit earnings growth for the last five years, and because of its growth prospects, the business is expected to be sold for well over 13 times EBITDA, the sources added. ($1 = 1.4754 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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