Jacobs snaps up €2bn schools giant Cognita

By Mark Kleinman, City editor
A Swiss family office whose investment firepower was partly generated by an international chocolate producer is on the verge of sealing a ?2bn takeover of one of Britain's biggest private school empires.
Sky News has learnt that Jacobs Holding, which owns a big stake in the chocolate and cocoa producer Barry Callebaut, is to buy Cognita, which operates scores of schools in the UK and abroad.
Jacobs Holding's sole economic beneficiary is the Jacobs Foundation, a charitable cause focused on child and youth development.The deal will represent its biggest UK takeover to date, and will come months after Cognita's controlling shareholders, the private equity investors KKR and EMK Capital, hoisted a for sale sign above the business.Cognita also attracted interest from one of Singapore's giant sovereign wealth funds, other private equity firms and a number of Canadian pension funds.One of Britain's biggest privately owned education groups, Cognita picked banks this year to lead an auction in an attempt to cash in on booming investor appetite for the sector.CVC Capital Partners, the buyout firm which previously controlled Formula One motor racing, was also examining a bid, while Singapore's other major state-backed fund, GIC, was among other prospective bidders, according to people close to the process.
Two rival education companies - Nord Anglia Education and GEMS Education - had been reported to be among interested bidders at a time of accelerating interesting consolidation across the industry.Cognita's portfolio includes the Southbank International School in Kensington, Hong Kong's Stamford American School, and schools in Brazil, Chile, Singapore, Spain, Thailand and Vietnam.The company is run by Chris Jansen, a former AA chief executive and senior British Gas manager.
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Jacobs is being advised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch on the deal.KKR and EMK declined to comment.
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