Surya Capital Targets Schools, Fintech in East African Drive

(Bloomberg) -- Surya Capital is taking notes from South Africa’s PSG Group Ltd. by targeting education and financial services as a blueprint for long-term growth.

The Mauritius-based firm plans to invest as much as $100 million in some of the continent’s fastest-growing economies as it seeks to control companies that feed rising domestic demand and take advantage of the export potential of these nations, founder and Chief Executive Officer Riaz Currimjee said. The investments will focus on payments using financial technology, healthcare and the private-education sector, he said.

“We’re looking at investing in companies that are headquartered in East Africa,” he said. “That doesn’t mean these companies, as they grow, won’t set up operations in other parts of the continent.”

Surya wants to build an East and southern African private-school chain that, once done, can be extended to other parts of the continent, such as Nigeria, Currimjee said.

Winning Recipe

The firm is taking an approach inspired by Stellenbosch, South Africa-based PSG -- whose founder Jannie Mouton created the nation’s best-performing stock since it’s listing in the 1990s -- and tweaking it to suit different markets. PSG built up interests spanning agriculture and education to stockbroking and banking by making long-term investments alongside management in businesses that had simple operating models.

Shares in PSG’s educational investment Curro Holdings Ltd. have increased more than sixfold since 2006, while Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd. started as an unsecured lender in 2001 and now has a market-leading 11.4 million retail-banking customers. Surya describes itself as a principal investment firm that focuses on bringing “patient and flexible capital to businesses.”

In Ethiopia, where Surya has an office, it owns a flower farm it bought for $10 million, exporting premium carnations to the Netherlands, and a capital-goods leasing business it set up over the past four years in a $25 million deal. The firm also has a presence in Tanzania and London.

For Currimjee doing business in East Africa trumped operating in “exciting” and “entrepreneurial” Nigeria because a branch of his family has been doing business in the region for more than 200 years. These are also more diversified economies that are not solely dependent on commodities, he said.

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