Actis, Macquarie, Avenue invest $103m in Chinese company

The private equity firms are investing in Chinese education services provider Ambow Education as China’s education industry continues to grow.

Ambow Education, a China-based education provider, has raised $103 million in its second round of financing led by new investor Actis and returning investors Avenue Capital and Macquarie Group.

Ambow raised $54 million from Avenue, CID, Cisco and Macquarie in its first round of financing in October 2007. Since then, Ambow has built regional hubs in strategic provinces including Beijing, Tianjin, Henan, Shaanxi and Guangzhou.

Ambow was founded in 2000 by Dr. Jin Huang, previously a founding engineer at electronic design automation company Avant!. Ambow specialises in personalised education and training services in China's kindergarten through 12th grade and vocational training sector. The company partners with and operates its own schools to provide education services that complement the national curriculum.

Huang said in a statement that the Chinese private education sector is at an “inflection point”. According to Actis, China’s education industry is resistant to economic downturns given the “intense competition to get into top schools and land promising jobs”.

The country’s education market grew to an estimated $143 billion in 2007 and is predicted to expand at a compound average growth rateof 12 percent to an estimated $200 billion until the end of 2010. The government is encouraging investment in education as it seeks to build a knowledge economy and boost consumer spending, Actis said.

Earlier this month, Actis invested $65 million in 7 Days Inn Group, an economy hotel chain in China, alongside Warburg Pincus. Actis’s other investments in China include state-owned oil company CNOOC, solar energy firms Suntech and Shunda, and wireless coverage technology firm Grentech.

Macquarie recently was involved in an auction for a 45 percent stake in the IT, telecommunications and media business of Hong Kong-based telecommunications provider PCCW. PCCW canceled the auction because “the recent market downturn has significantly impacted the offers received”.