Mayfair Equity Partners is the favourite bidder in the sale process for Learnlight, an ed tech platform backed by Beech Tree Private Equity, EducationInvestor Global can reveal.

This publication has learnt that Mayfair presented the highest bid and is likely to win the auction for the company, according to three sources. The only other contender left in the race was Inflexion Private Equity.

The company has been marketed off an EBITDA of around £10 million, at a valuation in the £100-120 million region, as previously reported by this publication.

The sale process, which is run by Baird, had initially attracted a wide pool of mid-market private equity firms from both Europe and the UK.

“Mayfair is one of several private equity firms trying to enter or re-enter the education sector by acquiring a good asset in the ed tech space at a reasonable valuation. Learnlight has been growing steadily in the last few years and is one of the few companies currently available at a valuation just north of £100 million,” one of our sources said. “Now that the possibility of a recession has become more likely, acquiring non-cyclical assets such as education businesses might be the key to a stronger and well-balanced private equity portfolio in the years to come.”

Learnlight provides blended face-to-face, virtual and digital-based language and skills training to corporations and international institutions. It operates in 180 countries serving around 1,200 clients, including Deutsche Telecom, Hyundai, Siemens, Sony and The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The business has benefitted from the strong growth experienced by the virtual learning segment after the Covid-19 outbreak and has been able to leverage its expertise in the sector to further expand its client base and geographical reach, while completing several add-on acquisitions.

Learnlight was originally founded in Spain in 2007 as Learnlight Group by chief executive Benjamin Joseph and chief operating officer Rupert Hillier.

Beech Tree acquired the company in January 2017 and created Learnlight Holdings with the aim of building an international virtual training platform specialising in language and soft skills courses.

In January 2017, Learnlight Holdings acquired Communicaid, a language and communication skills training business based in London with operations in Paris and clients including the European Central Bank, BAE Systems, Barclays, Tesco, Technip and Jaguar Land Rover.

The combined consideration for both acquisitions was £18.6 million. Beech Tree injected £16.7 million of funds into the company, in addition to £6.4 million of deferred consideration for the acquisition of Learnlight Group.

In April 2017, Learnlight acquired Training Express, a Spanish learning language provider that specialised in the design and management of regional and global training courses for companies, which was fully absorbed within the Learnlight brand.

Two years later, the company bought German language training provider Arenalingua. The business contributed £2.7 million to the group’s turnover, which reached £22.2 million in 2019, with gross profit of around £13 million.

The company continued to build up its portfolio of language training assets during the pandemic with two strategic acquisitions inked in 2021.

In March 2021, Learnlight acquired IBE, an Italian language training provider which generates annual turnover of around €3 million and provides blended language-learning solutions to Italian and international corporations such as Intesa San Paolo, Pirelli and Roche.

A few months later, Learnlight bought Georgal, a Mexican corporate language training company that operates in Latin America, with clients including Bimbo, BBVA, Nestlé and Bolsa Mexicana.

Date Published: 1 June 2022

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