Private equity firm Averna Capital has acquired a stake in student recruitment company SI-UK in a deal that is expected to close next week, EducationInvestor Global can reveal.

SI-UK has been valued at around £100 million. Its expected EBITDA for 2022 is £17-19 million, from revenue of around £55 million. In 2021, the company generated revenue of approximately £30 million, with EBITDA of around £10 million, this publication understands.

This publication has learnt that the management team led by co-founders Orion Judge and Dwayne Gallagher will retain a stake in the company and continue to lead the business.

“The founders turned down strategic buyers that could have been very complementary to their business because they did not want to sell the entire share capital,” a source close to the process told this publication. “They believe in the future of their company and want to make sure they can continue to run the business and get a full exit at a later time.”

The sale, which is run by Macquarie, was launched in January 2022 and attracted several offers, as previously reported by this publication. Potential bidders included Australian education providers Navitas and IDP Education, Canadian student recruitment platform ApplyBoard, as well as several private equity firms.

“SI-UK had to overcome a series of challenges during the pandemic, including a drastic reduction in student flows,” a second source close to the process said. “With this deal, they have found a private equity firm that can provide financial fuel and expertise to support their onward journey. Furthermore, this is probably the right time to sell a stake, considering that valuations are expected to decrease in the coming quarters.”

The buyer, Averna Capital, is a mid-market private equity firm founded by Richard Tudor and Stephen Green in 2019. The firm targets companies with enterprise value of up to €250 million, deploying equity investment of €40-60 million. Averna is an appointed representative of fund manager Thornbridge Investment Management.

Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, SI-UK partners with UK universities, colleges and language schools to help them recruit international students.

The business has placement agents based around the world and 75 offices in 35 countries. In 2021, SI-UK sent and managed 130,000 applications to UK universities from 45,000 students in over 90 countries, according to its website.

Date Published: 17 June 2022

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