Sylvan purchases Swiss school

$40 million deal expands its hospitality network

September 05, 2002|By Andrew Ratner | Andrew Ratner,SUN STAFF

Sylvan Learning Systems Inc., a Baltimore-based education company, added to its collection of international universities with the purchase of a Swiss hospitality-management school.

Sylvan purchased Glion Group S.A., the parent company of Glion Hotel School S.A., for $40 million. The price includes $16 million in cash and $24 million in assumed debt for the school's real estate holdings.

Glion has more than 1,200 students from more than 70 countries at campuses in Glion, Bulle and Leysin, Switzerland.

Sylvan, which purchased Les Rochesan, another Swiss hospitality-management school, in 2000, said its 2,500 students in hotel management make it one of the largest educators in that field.

"The addition of Glion to our growing network of universities is good news for our students, our faculty and the global hospitality industry," Raph Appadoo, president and chief executive officer of Sylvan International Universities, said in a statement.

Glion's expected $20.3 million in revenue this year, which would amount to about 3 percent of Sylvan's overall income, is seen as an indicator that the company will be pursuing its international higher-education strategy.

Sylvan announced this summer a delay in its plans to spin off the university division as a separate company until the market improves.

Sylvan operates six post-secondary schools with more than 56,000 students on 25 campuses worldwide. In addition to the two hospitality schools, it runs Ecole SupM-irieure du Commerce, a business college in Paris; and three general education schools, Universidad Europea in Madrid, Spain; Universidad del Valle de Mexico in Mexico City; and Universidad de las Americas in Santiago, Chile.

Glion was founded 40 years ago by Swiss hotelier Frederic Tissot and Walter Huntziker, a professor dubbed the "father of the social tourism" in Switzerland.

"This is a very, very fine school, one of the best in the world" in hospitality instruction, Richard Mandeville, a director with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, said of Glion. His group accredited the school last year after it switched its instruction from French to English.

"It's well-positioned in the industry, usually with a full boat of students," said Mandeville, who visited Glion during the review process. "It is cantilevered over a cliff, and it's quite lovely. You should see the view from that place."

Sylvan shares closed up 65 cents to $14.79 yesterday on the Nasdaq stock market. The stock has been trading near its 52-week low of $12.50 since three analysts raised questions about the company's accounting practices and its complex makeup.

"In the scheme of things, it's relatively minor, but it signals that they're continuing to focus on this international university division," Jeffrey M. Silber, an investment analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison in New York, said of the Glion deal. "But this is not the type of acquisition that's going to get the stock moving 20 percent. People are still concerned about the complexity. Their business is doing fine, but nobody cares."

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