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Financial Times / Biz - Money

Pearson in advanced talks to sell English-language schools to private equity

Pearson is in talks with a consortium of Asian private equity houses to sell its English-language school unit for more than $350m in a deal that could be signed within weeks, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

Negotiations with Baring Private Equity Asia and Citic Capital Holdings over the education publisher’s Wall Street English unit are at an advanced stage, the person said. Bloomberg first reported details of the talks.

Pearson bought the language-training business from private equity group Carlyle for a total of approximately $240m between 2009 and 2010, first acquiring the operations in China before buying the global business.

It announced in February it was seeking a strategic partner for Wall Street English as part of a strategic review after the group recorded its biggest ever loss following a writedown of its US higher education and testing business last year.

The disposal is the latest in a series of sales by Pearson as it seeks to transform from a broader media and publishing group to one focused on education. Earlier this year, it disposed of its stake in Penguin Random House as part of the strategic overhaul and in 2015 sold the Financial Times and its stake in the Economist magazine.

Originally launched in Milan in the 1970s, Wall Street English provides English language teaching in countries across continental Europe, Asia, and central and South America after significant expansion in the 1990s. It has 400 centres and 180,000 current students, according to the group’s website.