Abraaj buys stake in Thai education firm amid political turmoil

HONG KONG Mon May 26, 2014 5:47am EDT

HONG KONG May 26 (Reuters) - Middle East private equity firm Abraaj Group has bought into an education provider in Thailand, betting on a country that last week saw the imposition of military rule after months of wrangling between government and anti-government activists.

Abraaj, which manages $7.5 billion, said in a statement on Monday that it had bought a stake in out-of-school education provider KPN Academy, without disclosing the purchase price.

The deal comes at a time of reduced corporate buying-and-selling activity in Southeast Asia's No. 2 economy, brought about by political instability.

The value of initial public offerings has tumbled 72 percent so far in 2014 from a year earlier to $647.6 million, while that of mergers and acquisitions has fallen 60 percent to $2.8 billion, showed Thomson Reuters data.

In April, consumer confidence hit its lowest in over 12 years.

"The rising middle class in Asia, and beyond, is increasingly looking to supplement their family's education with out-of-school services," Srisant Chitvaranund, an Abraaj managing director, said in the statement without mentioning the political situation.

Established in 2000, KPN Academy has over 103 centres across Thailand, offering a variety of subjects including Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Social Sciences.

The acquisition is Abraaj's third in education globally and sixth by its current Southeast Asia Fund. (Reporting by Stephen Aldred and Denny Thomas; Editing by Christopher Cushing)