International schools group eyes return to growth after Covid-hit year

A BGF-backed business which operates international schools for local and expat families has said it is poised to emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position despite its finances being stalled by Covid-19.

Orbital Education, which is headquartered in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport, has posted a revenue of £31.6m for the 12 months to August 31, 2020, down from £32m during the prior year.

The group’s pre-tax profits also went from £4.1m to £3.8m over the same period.

The group was started by serial entrepreneur Kevin McNeany, best known as the founder of Nord Anglia Education

Orbital Education schools specialise in the delivery of English national curriculum for children between ages 2 and 18, leading to globally recognised qualifications for its diverse student population.

The group operates two Baleares International Colleges in Spain, Britannica International School, Budapest, and is set to open a Britannica International School in Abu Dhabi in August 2022.

It also runs a Britannica International School in Shanghai and British International School of Ljubljana in Slovenia.

The group’s portfolio also includes British School Quito in Ecuador, two campuses of English International School Moscow in Russia, Oryx International School in Doha and United School International, also in the Qatar capital which is due to open in August 2022.

Orbital Education won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade in 2019.

BGF and Rees Withers invested c.£10.5m in the group in September 2019.

A statement signed off by the board said: “The year’s decline in profits is caused by reduced turnover as a result of delayed return to school for the next academic year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The total comprehensive income of the group has decreased by £1.1m from the prior year, mainly due to the lost revenues from delaying the start of term in several jurisdictions.

“The 2019/20 financial year was characterised by the Covid-19 pandemic, which had a major impact on the operations of all schools in the group.

“Britannica International School Shanghai was the first to be affected when access to premises were closed in early February 2020 and school operations switched to online distance learning.

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“By late March, all teaching and learning in the group was being conducted at a distance as Orbital Education became a global e-learning organisation.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had and continues to have a major impact on society and on the economy globally and our business is no exception.

“While the performance of the group has undoubtedly been negatively impacted, the resilience of the group in the face of the challenges is also noteworthy.

“Group systems and processes responded strongly, and, in certain regards, out reputation has been enhanced.

“Staff and customer loyalty have remained strong. The crisis has also provided opportunities to innovate, for example, with new e-learning services.

“Management is confident, therefore, that the group will emerge in a position to thrive in a recovery scenario.

“Most of all, management’s ambition for development of the group is, if anything, enhanced and significant new investment in growth is underway.”

Business Live – North West