Retired teachers take over Busy Bees nurseries

Marion Dakers
BUSY Bees Nursery Group has been sold to a Canadian pension fund for an undisclosed sum, the childcare chain confirmed yesterday.

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan had offered a reported £220m for the company, which operates 213 nurseries across the UK. The companies declined to comment on how much money changed hands.

The fund beat a bid from private equity group Lion Capital to win control of Busy Bees.

Advisers at Rothschild managed the sale process.

Busy Bees, founded in 1983 by six former teachers, has spent the past few years buying up similar businesses. In 2007 it snapped up Leapfrog Day Nurseries, acquired Early Years Childcare in 2012, and added Just Learning the following August.

It currently employs 7,000 staff and looks after 20,000 children under the age of five, making it the UK’s largest private childcare provider.

The company’s biggest investor before the Teachers deal was Knowledge Universe, a Singapore-based school and college company, which invested when former owner ABC Learning Centres fell into liquidation in 2009.

The firm’s management remain shareholders as part of the deal.

“We hope that with our support Busy Bees will be able to make quality childcare more accessible internationally through organic growth and selective new acquisitions, while maintaining the current focus on quality and innovation,” said Jo Taylor from Teachers.

Marg Randles, the co-founder and managing director of Busy Bees, said Teachers has “a natural synergy... in terms of quality and integrity”, and that the business will stick to its existing strategy.

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has made several big investments in Britain, buying National Lottery operator Camelot Group in 2010, taking a large stake in the High Speed 1 rail link (also known as the Channel Tunnel) later that year, and last year making a failed bid for Goals Soccer Centre.