Laureate to sell its stake in a Chinese university to a firm in China

Baltimore-based Laureate Education Inc. said Wednesday that it has agreed to sell its interest in its university in China to China YuHua Education Corp. Ltd. for $218.5 million, according to current exchange rates.

Hunan International Economics University was founded in 1997 and serves nearly 30,000 students, most of them first-generation students from rural areas. The sale is the latest shift for the Baltimore-based company.

Laureate owns and operates a network of international for-profit universities. Since going public in February, it has been working to shed debt and expand in emerging markets. Company officials have said they see demand from middle-class students for low-cost education near their homes in fast-growing economies in Asia, Latin America and South America, rather than at higher-cost universities in Europe or the United States.

Laureate, which spent about a decade as a private company before going public, has said it plans to shed operations in five to seven markets. With 69 universities in 25 countries, it’s one of the largest global networks of degree-granting institutions.

The deal with China YuHua Education, a major provider of private school education in central China, is expected to occur by Friday.

Laureate also said Wednesday it has made changes to its board of directors. The company named independent director Kenneth W. Freeman as lead independent director. Robert Zoelick, also an independent director, will resign from the board at year’s end.

The company previously announced the selection of President Eilif Serck-Hanssen as CEO effective Jan. 1.

Serck-Hanssen said he plans to focus on high-quality education, avoiding the pitfalls and damaged reputations of some for-profit university systems in the United States that have come under increased scrutiny in recent years.

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