Pearson sees possible Brazil targets as education deals heat up

miércoles 8 de junio de 2016 17:03 GYT

By Juliana Schincariol

SAO PAULO, June 8 (Reuters) - Pearson Plc is looking at several possible acquisitions in Brazil amid a wave of merger talks, an executive told Reuters, as the British education company aims to take advantage of a favorable exchange rate in a market where it is fast expanding.

Brazilian peers Ser Educacional SA and Kroton Educacional SA have proposed tie-ups with rival Estacio Participações SA over the past week, adding to expectations of a sector-wide consolidation.

"The market is really hot right now, and the proof of that are the offers for Estacio. So various acquisition opportunities have appeared (in Brazil) and we're evaluating all of them," said Luciano Kliemaschewsk, Pearson's most senior executive in Brazil, in an interview late on Tuesday.

"Nothing concrete yet. We're identifying opportunities," said Kliemaschewsk, who took the helm of the Brazilian business in February, declining to give details of potential targets.

Pearson is in a strong position to make acquisitions in Brazil due to a weaker local currency and lower asset prices amid the country's economic recession, he said.

Brazil's downturn has not discouraged Pearson's expansion plans, said Kliemaschewsk, adding that some unemployed Brazilians were reinvesting severance packages in opening language schools under the group's franchises. The company plans to open 150 such schools this year, compared to 135 last year.

Pearson's Brazilian operations were also spared from 4,000 layoffs across the company globally announced in January, Kliemaschewsk said.

Pearson, which sold the Financial Times newspaper and its stake in The Economist last year to concentrate on education, has been wrong-footed by a strong U.S. jobs recovery, which has reduced the number of older students going to college.

"Pearson is happy with our results," Kliemaschewsk said of the Brazil division. "Brazil has stood out among emerging markets and we've taken on a position of prominence (in the company). We joke that there's no crisis around here." (Reporting by Juliana Schincariol; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Brad Haynes and Bill Rigby)