SMRT, Creador to buy 31% of Masterskill

13 Jan 2015 / 05:38 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: A consortium of SMRT Holdings Bhd and private equity firm Creador II LLC have acquired a 30.75% stake in Masterskill Education Group Bhd (MEGB) for RM69.39 million or 60 sen per share after completing due diligence on the troubled education group.
Together with the 19.26% stake Creador bought into last Thursday, the shareholdings of both SMRT and Creador in MEGB would have increased to 50.01%.
Following that, a conditional take over offer has been launched for the remaining stake in MEGB for RM112.81 million or 60 sen apiece, but the listing status of MEGB will be maintained.
Under the share sale agreement, SMRT's Strategic Ambience Sdn Bhd and Creador's Arenga Pinnata Sdn Bhd will acquire a 7.75% and 23% stake respectively from MEGB's major shareholder and executive director Siva Kumar Jeyapalan.
MEGB will then be renamed as Asiamet Education Group Bhd for rebranding purposes.
Speaking at a media briefing here yesterday, Creador's founder and CEO Brahmal Vasudevan expects to turnaround MEGB in a year as well as to rebuild Asia Metropolitan University (AMU) as a leading institution in the country.
"What we try to do is to put a new chapter and a new life into the company with the combination of SMRT and MEGM's skills in the education sector and our skills in the strategy and financial side," he said.
SMRT chairman Datuk R. Palan, meanwhile said that "asset light strategy" will still be adopted in MEGB going forward, with the disposal of assets that are under-utilised, including the initial planned disposal of four properties to Siva.
However, it was called off last month after the properties were valued 32.1% higher than the RM75 million offered. The properties are MEGB's campuses in Cheras, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Pasir Gudang.
Palan noted that the major task for now is to revive MEGB and to improve the student intake at AMU by introducing new programmes and courses as well as bringing in a new experienced academic team.
"In the past, there has been negative publicity towards the company and the university, which has led to the reduction in the student intake," he said.
Palan, however, is confident of a major improvement in AMU following SMRT's track record of turning around Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences (CUCMS) in less than a year.
He added that a 20% to 30% savings in marketing costs is expected with the synergies from CUCMS and AMU that will result in lower operation cost base and more efficient operations.
SMRT is involved in the provision of education solutions that include tertiary education, the English language and workforce training, professional human resources solutions in consulting, outsourcing and software services.
For the third quarter ended Sept 30, 2014, MEGB reported a net profit of RM6.42 million against a net loss of RM104.41 million in the previous corresponding period.
Nine-month financials have also improved, narrowing its net loss to RM3.38 million versus RM134.83 million a year ago.
Brahmal believes the subsequent loss for FY15 "should be minimum" given Siva's effort to clean up MEGB's operations in recent years.
Trading in MEGB and SMRT shares were suspended yesterday pending the material announcement, with last Friday's closing prices of 71 sen and 62.5 sen respectively.
On another note, Palan said SMRT will revisit its plan for a transfer listing to the main market of Bursa Malaysia after the completion of the acquisition exercise.
"We'll get to the main board but given this material development, we want to ensure our focus is on this acquisition," he stressed.
Last Friday, SMRT said in an announcement that it has decided to withdraw the application in relation to the proposed transfer listing which was submitted to the Securities Commission on Aug 14.

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