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GEMS Plans to Delay IPO After Dubai’s Freeze on School Fees

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GEMS Education, the Dubai-based school operator backed by Blackstone Group LP, is planning to delay an initial public offering after the local government unexpectedly said it would freeze school fees, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The closely held company is studying the potential impact on its earnings projections following the authorities’ decision to keep private school fees unchanged for a year, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. GEMS may revisit the share offering later in the year or consider selling a stake to a single buyer, they said.

Representatives for GEMS and Blackstone declined to comment.

GEMS, one of the world’s biggest education providers, owns and operates 47 schools and nurseries in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to its website. Egypt’s EFG-Hermes Holding SAE plans to invest in local kindergartens and schools with the company, the bank’s head of asset management and private equity, Karim Moussa, said last month.

The education provider’s owners -- founder Sunny Varkey, Blackstone, Fajr Capital Ltd. and Bahrain’s Mumtalakat Holding Co. -- had rebuffed interest from a private equity company that approached GEMS about buying a stake, opting instead for the share sale, people familiar with the matter said last month.

— With assistance by Sarah Syed, and Matthew Martin

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