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British nurseries drawing investors

By Angus Mcneice | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-24 09:54
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File Photo of newborn babies pictured on Dec 28, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

The value of the United Kingdom's daycare nurseries shot up thanks to a cheap pound and interest from Chinese investors, according to property adviser Christie& Co.

The average price for a British nursery in 2017 increased by 10.8 percent on the previous year, the company said in its new report.

It said a fall in the value of the pound following the referendum decision for the UK to leave the European Union attracted overseas investors scouting opportunities across multiple sectors, including early education.

Many of the investors are from China, where regulatory changes and government initiatives have led to increased interest in foreign early education models.

"Following the revocation of China's one-child policy, there has been growing demand from aspirational parents seeking premium early-years bilingual education," said Courteney Donaldson, managing director for childcare and education at Christie& Co.

Donaldson said several Chinese parties have shown interest in UK providers. These include both individual investors and State-owned groups, as well as large Chinese daycare providers that are looking to acquire nursery portfolios and export early-stage curricula to China.

China's childcare industry had an estimated value of 193 billion pounds ($269 billion) in 2015. The market is expected to grow to 370 billion pounds by 2020.

The UK department for international trade took an early-education trade mission to China last year, when 14 representatives from UK nurseries shared their expertise with 700 Chinese day care providers.

"The UK is a world leader and has a global reputation for providing outstanding expertise, education and qualifications in the early-years sector," former trade minister Mark Garnier said during the mission.

"There's growing demand for the UK offering, which is why we are now launching our Great Early Years education mission to China, to help UK nurseries export their services and knowledge on a global scale."

Donaldson said that, alongside inbound investment, there has been a "substantial rise" in UK outbound investment, driven by demographic trends and regulatory changes in China.

In 2017, UK company British Early Education partnered with Chinese investors Largreen Education to open an international kindergarten in Yixing, Jiangsu province. It can serve 300 children.

Happy Tree Nursery Group, operators of three nurseries in London, opened a new childcare facility in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. And Staffordshire-based Busy Bees Nurseries opened its first nursery in China.

"Teamed with a shortage of childcare facilities, and a desire for 'Western education', opportunities are abundant for innovative providers," Donaldson said.

"The interest around inbound and outbound UK-China partnerships has led to an increase in our advisory work and transactional activity."

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