Dubai: Part of the proceeds from the IPO will be used on building four new schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as Taaleem foresees further potential for ‘premium K-12 investments’, according to the CEO. Two of the projects have already cleared all of approval process.
“These are very favourable conditions in which we are coming with an IPO, with the UAE being one of the fastest growing K-12 markets in the world,” said Alan Williamson. Taaleem currently operates a 26-school network in the UAE, with 28,000 students. (Sixteen of these schools are based on public-private partnership deals.)
The locations for the four new projects will truly help with the growth we are forecasting, including one in Jumeirah.
Williamson makes a point of emphasising the ‘premium; aspect of the schooling that the operator will focus on, with price points in the sweet spot of Dh45,000-Dh75,000 for ‘best quality outcomes’.
On whether Taaleem would consider venturing into new areas, he said: “At a future date, we would give serious thought to taking on Arabic or Islamic schooling in other Gulf markets.”
The UAE’s schooling business landscape is in the midst of some dramatic change, as the population base increases and the need for quality education and internationally accredited curricula widens. It is attracting some of the biggest names around, with Abu Dhabi mega-developer Aldar building quite a portfolio around it. Taaleem, which operates the Dubai British School and Raha International, has developed its business model through a mix of new built campuses, acquiring existing ones, and through alliances with government entities.
Then, there is GEMS in Dubai, around which there is a swirl of speculation that it could be bought by an interest party.
Williamson would not be drawn into any conversation about whether his company plans more acquisitions. “We did buy an existing one in Jebel Ali recently, and we will – and can – pivot quickly should a possibility to buy arise. But it has to be right one, and at the right time and opportunity.”