G8 EDUCATION LAYS PATH TO CHEAPER FINANCE

G8 EDUCATION LAYS PATH TO CHEAPER FINANCE

PROFESSIONAL investors snapped up $100 million in G8 Education (ASX: GEM) shares this week in a move that paves the way for the childcare centre operator to tap into cheaper finance options in future.

The Gold Coast-based company, which recently has been leaning on debt markets to fund its ambitious acquisition program, has raised the funds through the issue of 20.4 million shares at $4.91 each.

G8 says it will immediately apply some of the funds to acquire 20 childcare centres for $36.7 million.

The centres will add a further 1343 childcare places to the company’s portfolio which sat just under 25,000 in 367 centres at the end of June this year.

According to managing director Chris Scott, the decision to approach equity markets to finance the latest acquisitions is a strategic one.

“We did equity this time instead of debt to strengthen the balance sheet,” he tells Gold Coast Business News.

G8 Education is understood to be in the process of being rated by one of the major ratings agencies, which would open the way for the company to tap into the institutional bond market.

G8 has previously issued bonds to high net worth investors, however institutional bonds are generally longer dated and cheaper.

The move could also see G8 Education included in the ASX 100 for the first time, which would lift its profile further on the radar of institutional investors.

Scott says he wasn’t surprised by the strength of demand for the latest share issue, which was wrapped up a day after being announced.

“This is a strong vote of confidence in G8 Education’s business model and growth prospects,” he says.

G8 Education acquired 114 childcare centres in the first half of calendar 2014, at the company’s prescribed valuation of four times earnings before interest and tax.

Scott says the availability of acquisitions delivering the required yield “remains significant”.

News of the capital raising pushed G8 Education shares lower, from $5.17 earlier this week to around $5 – but still above the share price for the latest capital raising.

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