* Abril Educacao, US online language site join forces
* Distance learning market estimated at $30 bln a year
* Livemocha is world's No. 1 language learning community
By Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO, Sept 5 Brazilian education services
company Abril Educacao , seeking to tap the $30
billion a year distance language learning market in its home
market, bought a stake in the world's largest online English
language learning community as demand for such services soars.
Sao Paulo-based Abril, which raised about $240 million in a
July initial public offering, will own 5.9 percent of Livemocha,
the Seattle, Washington-based Website, chief executives of both
companies told Reuters in an interview.
Abril Educacao will task Livemocha with setting up an
English learning platform for Brazil's emerging middle class,
which is demanding better formal education.
The partnership comes as the government seeks to better
prepare Brazilians to welcome millions of visitors from overseas
for the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
The company is gradually morphing from a pure publisher into
a diversified provider of educational solutions to schools, the
government and private companies.
The Livemocha bet reflects growing optimism that learning
communities could help sell more education content in Brazil.
"We will help our customers help students learn English with
better levels of proficiency," Abril Educacao CEO Manoel Amorim
said in the interview.
The purchase of the Livemocha stake should help Abril
implement innovative tools for online language courses, which
have become a lucrative market niche as more than 25 million
Brazilians joined the middle class over the past decade.
A tight job market is increasingly demanding a more skilled
labor force, with better technical knowledge and proficiency in
Some state governments in Brazil recently began subsidizing
President Dilma Rousseff is considering the creation of a
state scholarship program to pay for degrees in overseas
universities for Brazilian students.
Brazil accounts for about 2.2 million, or about 25 percent,
of Livemocha's total customer base, said CEO Michael Schutzler.
Neither executive gave estimates for demand and costumer base
growth for the coming years.
"This is a vibrant opportunity to gain access" to the
Brazilian market, he said.
Part of Livemocha's potential for success is its online
nature, Amorim said, a tool that most rivals in the local market
-- especially language-learning schools -- do not have.
Amorim said Abril could eventually team up with specialized
companies to implement systems for teaching English as another
product that could be supplied to associate private and public
schools. He declined to elaborate on the plan.
No bank participated in the deal, both executives said.
Shares of Abril Educacao jumped 3.7 percent to 17 reais on
Friday. That level is below the 20 reais per share paid for
investors in the July IPO.
(Editing by Vinu Pilakkott)