Published June 5, 2007

Property tycoon Kwek enters education business

Hong Leong to invest $7.5m in a 'creative learning' firm


PROPERTY tycoon Kwek Leng Beng has made his first foray into the education business after the Hong Leong Group, through a subsidiary of its City e-Solutions Ltd (CES), yesterday announced a $7.5 million investment into a 'creative learning' company.

Under the deal, CES Education Holdings Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed CES, will take a 50 per cent stake in a new joint-venture company called MindChamps Holdings Pte Ltd.

The company provides programmes aimed at training students in the 'art of learning and the development of a champion mindset'.

The remaining 50 per cent stake in the company is held by MindChamps Pte Ltd - an entity owned by David Chiem, the founder of the MindChamps educational business - as well as parties affiliated to Mr Chiem.

All intellectual property and assets will also be transferred to MindChamps as a precursor to CES's investment.

Mr Kwek, chairman of CES and executive chairman of the Hong Leong Group, said that his move into education may be surprising to some - considering that Hong Leong's expertise is in real estate, building materials, hotels and financial services - but he sees a correlation between the two sectors.

'I have spent extensive time thinking about this sector, and I am convinced of the instrumental impact education has on our world economies,' Mr Kwek said. 'My group's aim is to add a new dimension to education by further developing the cognitive and analytical skills of our children with stimulus learning that will allow them to expound their potentials.'

When asked how much he would be willing to pour into the new venture, Mr Kwek said: 'hundreds of millions', although he also added that the venture was not just about financial returns. He added that his firm had been exploring opportunities in the 'out-of-school education market' for the past few years, before deciding to partner with Mind-Champs.

'Our group strongly believes that MindChamps has significant potential to further expand its education business in Singapore and be used as a platform to grow globally,' Vincent Yeo, chief executive of CES, said.

Mr Chiem, chief executive and founder of MindChamps, said plans were underway for expansion into overseas markets such as Hong Kong, India and the Middle East.

The company, which trained more than 3,000 students last year, aims to train 5,000 this year and about 8,000 next year.

Speaking to reporters after the press briefing, Mr Kwek also commented on the recent flurry of en bloc sales in the Singapore property market. 'Of course it will continue, but up to a certain point,' Mr Kwek said, adding that he expects this trend to continue at least until next year.

He also indicated that the group's property arm, City Developments, is 'interested' in the prime piece of land at Marina Bay that was recently released for tender.

'We're trying to bid for every piece of land that we can get hold of and that we think is good enough,' Mr Kwek said. 'We're interested.'