Learning to Curro favour: Private schools are cooking

Business

Learning to Curro favour: Private schools are cooking

Not targeting the ‘super-rich’ market, but rather offering low-fee models with a mass market appeal

Marc Hasenfuss

Fast-growing private school business Curro Holdings is confident of replicating – and possibly improving on – a resurgent interim profit performance during the second half of the financial year.
On Tuesday Curro – which operates 139 schools on 50 campuses – reported strong gains in margins in the six months to end-June as efforts to cut costs by centralising various functions kicked in.
Curro CEO Andries Greyling said efforts to centralise administrative functions –  including information technology – paid off handsomely with head office costs increasing by only 10% in the interim period.The margin improvement meant Curro could turn a 18% gain in revenue to R1.24bn into a sprightly 26% increase in pre-tax profits to R184m.
Greyling stressed cost cutting initiatives would extend into the second half with the centralisation of Curro’s debt collection functions.
“Cost cutting will help margins, and we are confident the profit growth performance will extend into the second half.”
He hinted that the second half performance could be buoyed by recent acquisitions – including Cooper College, which was acquired in April.
A strong second half performance – coupled with a 31% surge in operational cash flow to R342m – will heighten shareholder expectations that Curro might also evaluate a small maiden dividend for the full financial year to end December.
Greyling reiterated remarks made earlier this year about spending R1bn on acquisitions that could add between R80m to R100m to group profits.He said it was likely Curro – which is still rapidly rolling out greenfield developments under its eponymous brand – was more likely to snag acquisition opportunities outside the consolidated SA private schools market. The company already has a presence in Namibia and Botswana.
Greyling said Curro was not targeting the “super-rich” private school market in Africa, but rather offering low-fee models with a mass market appeal. He pointed out that since Curro’s involvement pupil numbers at the Windhoek Gymnasium (acquired in late 2015) had increased from 1,300 to 2,000.
Asked if Curro had set a medium term target for revenues from African operations, Greyling indicated that the SA operations would still be the main focus for the foreseeable future. “We have not set a specific goal for our African operations. At the moment it is really about seeing which opportunities land on our table.”
In terms of greenfield developments, Curro intends investing R400m in six new campuses at Curro Vanderbijlpark and Edenvale as well as Curro Academies at Parkdene (near Boksburg), Protea Glen (near Soweto), Savanna City (in Johannesburg), and a Curro Castle at Burgundy Estate (Cape Town). Greyling said major expansion projects were also underway at Curro Brackenfell, Building Blocks, Curro Heritage House and Windhoek Gymnasium.

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