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The private equity owner of one of Europe’s largest private education groups, Galileo Global Education, has put the business up for the sale in a deal worth about 2.5 billion euros ($2.72 billion), three sources told Reuters.

U.S. buyout fund Providence has hired Goldman Sachs and Rothschild to find a new owner for the Paris-based firm which runs a network of 42 schools in ten countries, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An auction process kicked off in early February with Providence targeting a wide range of potential bidders including family offices, sovereign wealth funds and infrastructure investors, they said.

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Providence and Rothschild declined to comment while Goldman Sachs was not immediately available.

The schools run by Galileo include the Paris School of Business (PSB), Macromedia University in Germany and Italian fashion school Istituto Marangoni.

Under Providence’s ownership Galileo has expanded into other cities including London, Shanghai and Mumbai.

Many of the company’s schools specialize in the arts and creative industries, particularly in France where the Atelier de Sèvres focuses on fine art and Cifap offers cinema and music.

Milan-based Istituto Marangoni attracts wanna-be fashion designers and has branches in China, India and the United States.

Galileo has earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of between 130 and 140 million euros and is valued at a multiple of nearly 20 times its core earnings, one of the sources said.

Providence’s advisers want to wrap up the sale before the summer, the sources said.

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BIDDING FIELD

Buyout funds KKR, EQT, CVC Capital Partners and BC Partners have expressed interest in making rival bids, the sources said, adding that EQT would deploy cash from its infrastructure fund.

The sale has also drawn attention from European family offices including France’s Wendel Group and Belgium’s Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) which are linked to the Wendel and Lambert families respectively, two of the sources said.

Wendel has teamed up with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, they added.

French private equity group Ardian has turned to Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) to make a joint bid, the sources said.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) are both studying the dossier and may later enter a bidding consortium, they said.

Representatives at CVC, EQT, BC Partners, CPPIB, CDPQ, Wendel, Ardian, ADIA and GBL declined to comment while KKR and GIC were not available.

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Galileo launched a 700 million euro loan in October to refinance existing debt, fund acquisitions and pay a 70 million euro dividend to shareholders - the third dividend paid to Providence in two years.

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