Kidicorp in ABC daycare buyout

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Kidicorp owner Wayne Wright. The company has announced it has purchased 124 ABC centres. 
File photo
Kidicorp owner Wayne Wright. The company has announced it has purchased 124 ABC centres. File photo

Tauranga-based Kidicorp will soon be providing early education and care for 15,000 preschool children throughout the country after buying a number of ABC Learning centres.

Kidicorp, established more than 11 years ago, takes over 124 ABC centres from October 28 and will continue to run all of them under the existing names.

The centres are located from Kaitaia to Invercargill.

It will also own the New Zealand College of Early Childhood Education, training up to 300 students a year at its campus in Christchurch and through distance learning.

Kidicorp concluded the deal (the price was not disclosed) with the Australian administrator of ABC, which became the world's largest provider of early childhood education services before falling into receivership in late 2008, owing more than $2 billion.

Operating brands such as Topkids, Firststeps, Edukids, Early Years, Kids to Five, Montessori and Community Kindy, Kidicorp will have a total of 230 centres nationwide, employing 3500 staff, and looking after more than 15,000 children up to the age of five.

The deal doubles the size of Kidicorp's business and it will continue to run its head office out of Elizabeth St in downtown Tauranga.

The latest move cements Kidicorp as the largest private childcare and education provider in New Zealand - having 8 per cent of the market - and it fulfils owners Chloe and Wayne Wright's dream of making a positive difference to the lives of as many children as possible.

"We have the infrastructure and quality of people to absorb ABC and we see it as a natural progression to become more involved in preschool children's lives," Mr Wright told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"There's plenty of research that shows every dollar invested in early childhood education will likely save $17 in health, welfare and justice costs later on. We want to work with the Government to ensure those children missing out have a chance to be prepared for school.

"If they are not getting early childhood education, then they will never catch up in life. Everyone else is ahead of them in class," Mr Wright said.

Kidicorp is planning to buy mini-buses and liaise with social agencies to transport children who would otherwise not be able to attend its childcare and education centres.

During the day, Kidicorp staff teach numeracy and literacy skills, as well as encourage the children to share, take responsibility and socialise.

"They take to the learning like a sponge," Mr Wright said.

The first 20 hours of early education and childcare in a week is fully subsidised by the Government.

Kidicorp first made a bid for the ABC New Zealand centres in November 2009 but its offer then was declined by the administrator. However, Kidicorp was asked to put in a new bid four months ago.

ABC ended up having thousands of centres in Australia, United States, Canada and Britain, as well as in New Zealand. It collapsed under the weight of the global financial crisis, unable to service its $2 billion debt. All the centres have now been sold.

The New Zealand ABC operation was never officially in receivership. "It's a well-functioning, profitable entity, and it is quite stable," said Mr Wright. "The banks don't want to own it and the time had come for another owner."

The Wrights, who live in Omokoroa, first became involved in childcare and education in 1998 after returning from running a construction company in Texas, United States.

They provided business advice to friends Christine and Geoff Olsen who were running Topkids in Waihi Rd, and became passionate about offering quality preschool education.

Kidicorp, which was listed on the New Zealand sharemarket in 2003 and then de-listed three years later, grew to 113 centres looking after more than 6500 children. It has 10 centres in the Western Bay.

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