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Vietnam educators, edtech attract PE investors
Acquisitions, investments, including from US giant KKR, part of sector’s scaling up
Sao Da Jr 23 May 2023

International investments from private equity (PE) funds and other sources are flowing into the Vietnamese education sector as investors see growth opportunities.

Earlier this month, Ho Chi Minh City-based educational services provider EQuest successfully raised US$120 million through a combination of debt from creditors and equity from its existing investor – and American PE giant – KKR’s Global Impact Fund, which follows the US$100 million the company invested in EQuest in 2021.

The new proceeds will be used for the investment in the Canadian International School System in Ho Chi Minh City and to expand the company’s college and university system, particularly the Broward College Vietnam campuses in Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City.

“This significant investment reinforces our commitment to provide a world-class education at an affordable cost,” says David Armstrong, EQuest’s senior vice-president. “Now significantly more Vietnamese families and students can experience a true US university education right here in Vietnam.”

As well, Equest, which operates a diversified portfolio across the educational sector in Vietnam, including K-12 bilingual schools and higher education institutions, has appointed Dam Bich Thuy, founding president of Fulbright University Vietnam, as an independent board member. She left Fulbright in March of this year. Before her presidency at the US-backed university, she created and built up ANZ Bank’s franchise in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, was National Australia Bank’s representative in Vietnam and Vietnam International Bank’s CEO.

Edtech start-ups

As well, Hanoi-headquartered educational technology platform Mclass was acquired on May 9 by Indonesian edtech start-up Ruangguru. (The deal’s value was not disclosed.)

The acquisition aims to expand Ruangguru’s reach and capabilities across Southeast Asia. The Indonesian company entered the Vietnamese market in 2019 through a platform named Kien Guru. (Kien means “ant”, which in Vietmanese culture has a reputation for being hard working.)

The acquisition of Ruangguru, which is expected to allow Mclass’ teachers to reach more students across the region, is intended to complement Kien Guru’s existing online learning options for K-12 students, including pre-recorded live teaching and homework helper solutions. These services have already been used by more than 2.5 million students in Vietnam over the last four years.

Just before Ruangguru’s acquisition, Teky Alpha, another Hanoi-headquartered educational technology start-up, raised US$5 million in funding from Singapore-based impact investment firm Sweef Capital, marking the first investment from its Southeast Asia Women’s Economic Empowerment Fund. The investment will support the expansion of Teky’s educational services in Vietnam’s public school system and after-school programmes for children aged five to 18 years.

Offshore cooperation

On May 11, Shinhan Bank Vietnam of South Korean financial group Shinhan signed a strategic partnership agreement with Ho Chi Minh City-based Nguyen Hoang Group (NHG) to launch a tuition fee sponsorship programme with a zero interest rate for parents whose children are studying within the NHG school and university system.

Shinhan Bank will also provide NHG with credit financing for infrastructure construction at and teaching equipment in its school and university network.

“Expanding cooperation with universities and schools in Vietnam, including institutions under the NHG roof, is an opportunity for Shinhan Bank to further develop the bank’s ecosystem,” notes Lee Han Byeol, Shinhan Bank Vietnam’s CEO. NHG is a major competitor of EQuest, and both are private firms.

In August 2022, Vietnam became the newest market financed by HSBC’s Female Entrepreneur Fund, which targets the provision of US$1 billion in funding for eligible female business founders worldwide. The global fund welcomed its very first Vietnamese business, NHG, as HSBC Vietnam signed a deal to provide the firm with a US$75 million financing package from HSBC’s Female Entrepreneur Fund. HSBC Vietnam acted as the mandated lead arranger and bookrunner in the deal.

In June 2021, while EQuest was receiving US$100 million from KKR, Standard Chartered Bank Singapore successfully arranged US$150 million for NHG’s inaugural offshore syndicated loan facility.

MindX, a Vietnamese edtech start-up focusing on technology training, raised US$15 million in a Series B funding round led by Singapore-headquartered PE fund Kaizenvest this April. Other investors joining the round included Thailand-based education firm Aksorn, Japanese human resources firm Mynavi and existing investor Wavemaker Partners, which had led the firm’s Series A round.

MindX secured US$3 million in November 2021 from a Series A funding round led by Wavemaker Partners, Thien Viet Securities and Beacon Fund.

Additionally, the family behind Taylor’s Education Group is exploring the sale of a minority stake in a unit that owns private universities in Malaysia and Vietnam – Taylor’s University and British University Vietnam (BUV), respectively.

Established in 2009, BUV grants degrees from the UK’s University of London and Staffordshire University to its students in Vietnam. It has 11 undergraduate programmes and a masters of business administration degree. Taylor’s Education Group is also financially backed by KKR. 

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