Pearson acquires online learning business EmbanetCompass for $650M

Pearson PLC has acquired EmbanetCompass from an investor group led by Technology Crossover Ventures and Knowledge Universe, for $650m in cash.

EmbanetCompass partners with leading non-profit colleges and universities in North America to provide online learning solutions for more than 100 university programmes. It provides a range of services including: programme design and development, marketing and student recruitment, faculty training and support, data-driven student retention and learning analytics; student services (counselling, tutoring, mentoring), technology support and launch funding.

Institutional services are one of the fastest growing areas of the US higher education market. Out of 6,700 degree-granting institutions in the US, approximately 175 institutions engage third-party vendors to power online programmes. Of a total post-secondary student population of 22 million, 2.5 million participate in purely online programmes with over 6 million taking at least one online course. Pearson believes the number of students learning online and the number of institutions serving those students will grow rapidly, as academic institutions seek low-risk and cost-effective ways to better serve new and existing customers by boosting student access, affordability, achievement and retention.

EmbanetCompass revenues have grown strongly in each of the last three years and are expected to be approximately $130m in 2012. The transaction is subject to a Hart-Scott-Rodino review. Pearson expects the acquisition to enhance adjusted earnings per share and to generate a return on invested capital above Pearson’s weighted average cost of capital from 2014.

Will Ethridge, CEO of Pearson North America, said, “The acquisition of EmbanetCompass extends Pearson’s investment in two areas where we see great opportunities for growth and impact-online education and educational services.  The combination of Pearson and EmbanetCompass creates the premier provider of online learning and education services and will further enable us to advance the goals of the institutions and students we serve with innovative and proven programs.”

Founded in 1995, with locations in Chicago, Orlando, and Toronto, EmbanetCompass has 580 employees and is headed by Steve Fireng. He will stay on as CEO of EmbanetCompass and as a senior executive at Pearson.

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