UAE’s GEMS buys Saudi Arabia’s biggest private school group Maarif

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United Arab Emirates-based GEMS Education has expanded into Saudi Arabia by buying Maarif Education Group, the largest private school owner and operator in the Kingdom, through a joint venture with Hassana Investment.

GEMS, the Middle East-focused education group whose investors include Blackstone, said in October it may invest $800 million with Hassana over the next decade to develop a network of schools in Saudi Arabia.

GEMS, which is majority-owned by Dubai-based Varkey Group, said in a statement that it had signed an agreement to acquire Maarif, which has more than 22,000 students across its national and international schools in Saudi, with Hassana.

It did not disclose the value of the deal.

The joint venture plans to build a portfolio of more than 50 schools for some 100,000 students as the kingdom pushes ahead with reforms and privatization, making it one of the most attractive growth markets for GEMS.

“The Maarif acquisition of 14 schools is an ideal platform from which to grow,” Dino Varkey, GEM’s chief executive, said.

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