RIO DE JANEIRO, June 5 (Reuters) - Brazil's Ser Educacional SA, a for-profit education company, said on Sunday it had made a non-binding offer to merge with Estácio Participações SA, a larger rival facing an unsolicited takeover from Kroton Educacional SA.
If accepted, the Ser Educacional deal will pay existing Estácio shareholders a special dividend of 590 million reais ($167.3 million), or 1.92 reais a share, Ser Educacional said in a securities filing. The merged company would be 68.7 percent owned by existing Estácio shareholders and 31.3 percent owned by Ser Educacional shareholders.
The offer from Ser Educacional comes three days after Kroton, Latin America's largest for-profit education company, announced a 3.37 billion real ($937 million) or 0.977 real a share unsolicited offer for Estácio.
Ser Educacional said the merger would create one of Brazil's largest education companies and create a group with great growth potential in the online learning market. Ser Educacional is the biggest post-secondary education provider in Brazil's north and northeastern regions.
Later on Sunday, Estácio said in a securities filing that it had set up a committee that would review the proposals from Kroton and Ser Educacional and consider alternatives.
Estácio also said it had hired Banco BTG Pactual SA to provide financial advice and Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr. e Quiroga Advogados to provide legal advice.
If successful, Kroton's bid for Estácio is expected to unleash a wave of mergers in Brazil's education industry, underpinning the resilience of for-profit college operators during a two-year recession in which student delinquencies have risen and the government has slashed funding for student loans. ($1 = 3.5265 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Peter Cooney)