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ABC to sell UK nursery business

publication date: Jul 1, 2008
author/source: Ed Tranham

Australian childcare operator ABC Learning has confirmed that the whole of its UK nursery business is now up for sale. The company had previously tried to dispose of its UK voucher business for a net gain of A$100m but a desperate need for cash to de-leverage the business means that the whole UK business is now for sale. 

In the UK, ABC’s nurseries operate under three brands – Busy Bees, TLC and Leapfrog. Leapfrog Day Nurseries was acquired as recently as September 2007 for £31.2m cash from Nord Anglia.

The news follows last month’s surprise move to raise cash by issuing new stock. ABC placed 12.9% of its equity with Morgan Stanley and 2.1% with Lazards Asset Management at a 15% discount raising only A$82m. Singapore-based Temasek did not take part in the cash call having bought 55 million shares 12 months ago at A$7.30 a share (the current share price is 66 cents!). Add to this ABC’s recent decision to increase its daycare fees in Australia by 11% to A$62 a day from A$56, and the increasing desperation to raise cash for debt repayments becomes apparent. 

Even if the UK deal can be completed within the next six months, ABC’s future appears to lie in the hands of its banks, Morgan Stanley and its few remaining major shareholders.

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