By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

THE education unit of Phinma Corp. is expanding its global footprint with a plan to acquire more schools in the country and enter new territories abroad.

In a briefing in its Makati office on Wednesday, Phinma Education Holdings, Inc. said it is targeting to increase its network of seven schools in the Philippines with new schools in the National Capital Region (NCR), Laguna and Davao.

“We’re most excited about NCR and Laguna… We hope to have 30,000 students in Metro Manila alone. And we believe we can do the same in Laguna,” Phinma Education President and Chief Executive Officer Chito B. Salazar said.

“We’re in negotiation right now with two schools in Laguna. We hope to close these deals in the next three months,” he added.

Phinma Education started operating schools in 2004 and now has seven schools in its portfolio: Phinma Araullo University in Cabanatuan City, Phinma Cagayan de Oro College, Phinma University of Pangasinan, Phinma University of Iloilo, Southwestern University Phinma in Cebu City, Phinma Saint Jude College in Manila and Phinma Republican College in Quezon City.

Overseas, Mr. Salazar said the company is keen on tapping new markets in Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Phinma Education currently operates one school in Karawang, Indonesia through Phinma Education PT Ind Phil Management and its partner Yayasan Triputra Persada Horizon Education foundation, and a training institution in Myanmar through Phinma Saytanar Education Co. Ltd.

“Our most exciting venture is really our first into Indonesia. Our vision is 100,00-150,000 students in Indonesia in 10 to 12 years,” Mr. Salazar said. The company has identified key provinces it specifically wants to enter: Medan, Karawang, Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya.

“We’re in negotiations with our second school already in Indonesia, in Surabaya. We’re talking with the owners and coming up with a contract,” he added.

To support its expansion, Phinma Education is using the P2.2 billion it generated from local and foreign investors last month. India’s Kaizen Private Equity II Pte. Ltd., the Netherlands Development Finance Co. (FMO) and the Asian Development Bank have infused a combined total of P1.875 billion into Phinma Education, on top of the P325 million from local investors Emar Corp. and Magdaleno B. Albarracin, Jr.

“It’s a general fund that will be available for our expansion projects in the Philippines and overseas. The expansions include new schools as well as expansion of existing campuses,” Phinma Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon R. del Rosario, Jr. said.

The Phinma group said it is bullish in its education business due to the size of the market it serves, which is mostly those from households that earn P15,000 or less every month.

“The underserved market is such a huge market that there are many places to go. So we still want to continue to expand in the Philippines and also expand on existing schools,” Mr. Salazar said.

“We have been satisfied with the returns that the education business has been yielding the group. We continue to look to them to produce the same comparative returns with the objective of driving the investment forward: expansions and acquisitions,” Phinma Corp. Chairman Oscar J. Hilado said.

Revenues from Phinma Education in the first nine months of 2019 rose 9% to P2 billion, driven by its record enrolment of 74,187 students. Phinma Corp.’s attributable net income during the period also jumped 35% to P184.05 million.

Shares in Phinma Corp. at the stock exchange rose five centavos or 0.51% to P9.95 each on Wednesday.