August 7, 2018 / 6:10 PM / a year ago

Brazil's Estacio, Ser vie for Grupo Positivo education units: sources

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian for-profit education companies including Estacio and Ser are competing to acquire units of Grupo Positivo, as the group considers asset sales as an alternative to an initial public offering, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

People walk at a campus of Estacio college in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/File Photo

Grupo Positivo had been planning a listing of its education division for next year, to avoid pre-election market volatility, vice president Lucas Guimarães told Reuters in June.

Since then, the Curitiba, Brazil-based group, which is also the controlling shareholder of technology company Positivo Tecnologia SA (POSI3.SA), has decided to put its education divisions on the block, the people said, asking for anonymity since the decisions are private.

Positivo is seeking bids for three separate education divisions: the university, private schools and learning systems. So far, the education units have been jointly valued by potential bidders at around 700 million reais ($190 million).

Estácio Participações SA (ESTC3.SA), Ser Educacional SA (SEER3.SA) and Cruzeiro do Sul Educacional SA have presented bids to acquire the university’s eight campuses, the sources said, with bids valuing them at around 300 million reais.

The university has 40,000 students, mostly based in Curitiba, the largest city in the southern state of Paraná.

Estácio and Cruzeiro do Sul declined to comment. Ser denied having made a proposal.

In a statement, Guimaraes said that “although we are targeting an initial public offering, we are open to hearing proposals from qualified investors.” He added that Grupo Positivo has minority shareholders that may agree to a partial sale.

The schools division, with seven schools and 8,000 students in the same relatively affluent region, has received bids from Eleva Educação SA, in which 3G Capital partner Jorge Paulo Lemann is an investor, as well as from Somos Educação SA SEDU3.SA, the sources said.

Somos declined to comment. Eleva and its shareholder Warburg Pincus did not immediately comment on the matter.

The three groups have been trying to build large networks of private schools through acquisitions and organic growth, Reuters reported last month.

The learning systems division has attracted less interest, with SAS Plataforma de Educação the only definitive bidder so far.

Newspaper Valor Economico reported last week that Grupo Positivo had decided to sell its education divisions, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Additional reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Christian Plumb and Susan Thomas

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