The owner of a prestigious operator whose schools have taught members of Britain’s Royal Family has hired advisors to carry out a strategic review that could prompt sales of select institutions, EducationInvestor Global can reveal.

This publication has learnt from five sources that Delancey, an asset manager with subsidiaries in offshore jurisdictions that controls Alpha Plus Group, has retained Macquarie to advise it on strategic options including asset sales.

According to statutory filings, Alpha Plus operates 13 independent schools, three nurseries and three sixth form colleges in the UK. Except for one school (Hilden Grange School in Kent), one nursery (Davenport Lodge Nursery School in Coventry) and two colleges (Abbey College Cambridge and Abbey College Manchester), all its sites are situated in central London.

It is understood that DLD College London, located in the heart of London opposite Westminster and Big Ben, has been bundled together with Abbey College Cambridge in a bid to sell the institutions as a pair.

Meanwhile, “some select underperforming assets” outside London could also be put on the block, one source privy to the process told EIG.

When contacted by EIG, a spokesperson for Alpha Plus said: “Alpha Plus has decided to undertake a strategic review, using Macquarie as one of our advisors, into how to grow value for the shareholders in various areas, both home and abroad, and involving our schools, but also aspects of educational technology. 

“We are at a very early stage of consideration and no decisions about the outcome of this review have been taken.”

The proceeds of any auctions are intended to offset Covid-induced losses at Alpha Plus, which, according to statutory filings, booked a loss of £26.5 million in the year ended 31 August 2020, widening from £10.1 million a year prior. Alpha Plus was loss-making before the pandemic struck, according to its accounts.  

In its 2020 strategic report, Alpha Plus noted that a reduction in enrolments in September 2021 could reduce revenues by up to £12 million. Enrolments across the group’s schools and colleges fell to 4,187 at the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year from 4,372 in 2019/20.

Delancey, which featured in the Panama papers, acquired Alpha Plus in 2007 from Sovereign Capital Partners for more than £140 million, generating an internal rate of return (IRR) of 53% for the latter, which paid £26 million for the group five years prior.

Alpha Plus is led by chief executive Mark Hanley-Browne. Its prestigious Wetherby School in West London counts British Princes William and Harry among its alumni.

Macquarie declined to comment. Delancey had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Date published: 8 October 2021

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