PAG, Platinum among bidders for Advent's stake in Singapore tuition chain worth up to $500 mln -sources

BEIJING/SINGAPORE, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Private equity firms PAG and Platinum Equity are among bidders vying for Advent International's stake in Singaporean tuition chain The Learning Lab that could fetch up to $500 million, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The sale process, which is being run by Rothschild & Co, has entered a second round of bids, the sources said, declining to be named as the information is confidential.

Binding bids are due in early December, one of the sources said.

U.S.-based private equity fund Advent initially kicked off the sale of The Learning Lab last year but the process stalled, partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic which made due diligence challenging while affecting the company's performance, the source said.

A "valuation mismatch" and the seller's initial price expectation also contributed to the delay, the source said, adding the final deal may fetch less than $500 million.

Current suitors also include Singapore's Temasek-backed investment firm SeaTown Holdings and China's TAL Education Group, the source added.

Advent, PAG and Rothschild declined to comment, while the Learning Lab, Platinum, SeaTown and TAL did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

The Southeast Asian education sector is attracting investors' interest as a growing number of affluent families in the region are driving demand for private tuition, including after school classes.

The Learning Lab offers tuition and other academic services for pre-school, primary, secondary and junior college students in Singapore, according to its website. It also has a presence in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

In Singapore, The Learning Lab has operated eight educational facilities since it was established nearly two decades ago.

Advent invested in The Learning Lab in a buyout deal in September 2014, the fund's website shows, without disclosing the value of the transaction. Singapore's Straits Times reported at that time that Advent bought a "significant stake" in Learning Lab at around S$300 million ($218.55 million).

In 2018, The Learning Lab partnered with Best Learning Education Group, a China-based English-language training firm, to create an education platform seeking investment and expansion opportunities in Asia.

($1 = 1.3727 Singapore dollars)

Reporting by Roxanne Liu in Beijing and Yantoultra Ngui in Singapore; Additional reporting by Kane Wu; Editing by Susan Fenton, Kirsten Donovan

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