Paris school purchased by Sylvan

Company will pay $8.1 million in cash for 4-year institution

November 14, 2001|By Andrew Ratner | Andrew Ratner,SUN STAFF

Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. announced yesterday its purchase of a business school in Paris, the fifth university that it has bought in Europe and Latin America during the past two years as part of its growing international universities division.

Executives of the Baltimore-based education services company have said they may spin off the unit as a separate company, possibly next year.

Sylvan purchased a 98.8 percent interest in Ecole Superieure du Commerce Exterieur, a four-year school in business and management with roughly 1,000 students, for about $8.1 million in cash. Current school administrators will retain roughly 1 percent of the property and will continue to manage the school for Sylvan.

The company's stock closed up 91 cents to $20.92 yesterday on the Nasdaq stock market. The stock climbed the first half of this year to nearly $30 in August, but has slid through the fall.

Ecole Superieure du Commerce Exterieur is accredited by the French Ministry of Education. French employers ranked it 13th among 53 business schools in the country, according to a survey published by Le Nouvel Economiste in 2000, Sylvan said. ESCE offers courses in international trade, law and policy and emphasizes student mastery of two to three languages.

The main campus of the 33-year-old school is in Paris' business district. A satellite campus in Lyon opened two years ago.

"It's a terrific location," said Raph Appadoo, president and chief executive officer of Sylvan International Universities. Discussing the prospect of exchange programs between other Sylvan schools and the Paris campus, he said that "when you put it in a network with students from other universities, it gets their juices going."

Sylvan International Universities also includes Universidad Europea in Madrid, Spain; Universidad del Valle de Mexico in Mexico City; Universidad de las Americas in Santiago, Chile, and Les Roches Hotel Management School in Switzerland. Total enrollment of the five schools is more than 49,000 full-time and 8,000 continuing-education students.

"It's definitely a positive," said Trace Urdan, who follows the company for WR Hambrecht+Co. in San Francisco. "The way they get value is by taking the curriculum and offering it across their network. They're charting uncharted territory in aggregating overseas universities but, as they are quick to point out, through [other businesses] and tutoring they've operated overseas for some time and feel comfortable with that aspect."

Appadoo said the company hopes to announce the purchase of another foreign university within the next three months.

Sylvan officials have discussed the possibility of spinning off the unit as a separate company in a public stock offering, depending on the economy.

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