Business Irish

Saturday 17 November 2018

O'Callaghan in rare miss with China deal

SPREE: Barry O'Callaghan
SPREE: Barry O'Callaghan

Nick Webb

Former Riverdeep billionaire Barry O'Callaghan is trying to build up a massive education business in China.

He's been on something of a buying spree from his office on St Stephen's Green. O'Callaghan's EMPG (China) has lashed out €8.25m to buy a 24.5pc stake in the wordy Beijing Riverdeep International Educational Technology Development Company. He now has a 75pc chunk of the business. There has also been the purchase of a 74.9pc slice of Rise China Ltd, for an altogether more modest €530,000 and a 34.5pc shareholding of Beijing Step Ahead Educational Development for a smaller amount. The company has racked up accumulated losses of over €22.1m as it spreads out in the Chinese market.

Given that O'Callaghan was masterminding multi-billion Euro transactions at the pomp of his Riverdeep - later Harcourt Mifflin and EMPG - these are much smaller deals than he's used to. There was even one that got away. His EMPG (China) lent about €11m to related firm Elite Leadership Education to buy into a rival. "This structure was put in place for a proposed transaction which did not materialise," according to company documents.

With his track record, O'Callaghan is unlikely to miss twice.

Sunday Independent

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