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Ascend Learning is ‘exploring possible sale’

Education

Ascend Learning is ‘exploring possible sale’

Ascend Learning, a U.S. maker of educational software used in sectors such as healthcare, is exploring a sale that it hopes will value the company at more than $2 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal would come as buyout firms continue to invest in the educational software sector at time when companies and schools are using more digital tools to enhance learning and reduce some of their operational costs.

Last year, for example, private equity firms TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners acquired Ellucian Company, a U.S. provider of software to universities and colleges, for $3.5 billion, including debt.

Ascend’s majority owner, private equity firm Providence Equity Partners, has hired investment banks Barclays Plc and Bank of America Corp to run the auction for the company, the people said on Monday.

Ascend generates 12-month earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of around $150 million, two of the sources said.

The sources asked not to be identified because the sale process is confidential, and cautioned that there is no guarantee that a sale will happen. Ascend, Providence Equity, Barclays and Bank of America declined to comment.

Based in Burlington, Massachusetts, Ascend offers software programs for testing and certifications in various industries, from nursing to sports medicine. The majority of its revenue comes from the healthcare and public safety sectors.

Ascend was formed in 2010 by Providence Equity after it combined companies it had previously acquired, including nursing school testing company Assessment Technology Institute LLC.

Providence Equity also owns Blackboard Inc, a U.S. software company that provides learning tools for high school and university classrooms.

It explored a sale of the company in 2015, but then ultimately decided to put it on hold. The private equity firm also has previously invested in education companies ITT Educational Services, Archipelago Learning (now Edmentum) and Education Management Corp.

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