Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (“the Company” or “BNED”), a leading provider of educational products and services solutions for higher education and K-12 institutions, announced today that it has completed the acquisition of Student Brands, a leading direct-to-student subscription-based writing skills services business, for $58.5 million in cash.
Student Brands is an education technology company that operates multiple direct-to-student businesses focused on Study Tools, Writing Help, and Literary Research, all centered around assisting students with the writing process. Student Brands has a substantial and growing community of online learners, with over 20 million unique monthly users across its digital properties, which include 123HelpMe.com, Bartleby.com and StudyMode.com in the United States and TrabalhosFeitos.com, Etudier.com and Monografias.com in Brazil, France and Mexico, respectively. Student Brands utilizes deep data analytics and artificial intelligence to drive its proprietary content management system, the Content Brain. The Content Brain sifts through millions of pieces of content and provides the best answer for virtually any assignment a student is tackling. Student Brands generates revenue predominantly through its subscription-based services and digital advertisements.
Kanuj Malhotra, Chief Operating Officer, Digital Education, Barnes & Noble Education, said: “The acquisition of Student Brands enables BNED to maintain and expand our leadership position in the distribution and provision of educational services and content. The lack of writing proficiency is one of the most significant challenges in our education system, and Student Brands provides a significant opportunity to serve this market with solutions that improve student performance. BNED serves one in four higher education students every year, and through our recent acquisition of MBS, we have expanded our market reach to even more students in both higher education and K-12. The addition of Student Brands and its nearly 100,000 subscribers will enable us to offer products and services directly to our current student base and beyond.”
The transaction builds on the Company’s strong growth momentum in digital learning, and will further enhance its ability to support partner schools’ retention efforts by helping students and teachers embrace technology tools that improve writing proficiency. The experienced management team at Student Brands provides deep online and customer monetization experience. BNED serves more than six million students, as well as parents and alumni. With this acquisition, BNED extends its industry-leading reach and deepens its relationships with students and faculty by adding a direct-to-student digital channel. By leveraging the BNED footprint among students and faculty, K-12 schools and higher education institutions, Student Brands will have substantially more opportunities to market the services students need to improve performance in the classroom and secure jobs after graduation.
“We help millions of students every month with the critical skills that they need to succeed – whether it’s writing a paper for class or drafting a college application essay. As student demand for extra help with writing and study tools continues to grow, we are delighted to be joining forces with a company whose scale, resources and expertise will help drive further innovation in our products and expand our addressable market,” said Thomas Swalla, Chief Executive Officer, Student Brands. “Barnes & Noble Education shares our mission to provide students with innovative solutions to solve a growing range of academic challenges. We are confident that this is an ideal combination and we are thrilled to begin working with our new colleagues.”
Writing proficiency is one of the most critical skills needed by graduates across all industries, and students in the U.S. spend more than $3 billion dollars annually on remedial education, including remedial writing instruction1. The writing proficiency deficit is widespread, negatively impacting students, new graduates and employers:
The Company utilized cash on hand and availability under its current credit facility to finance the acquisition. Student Brands is expected to contribute over $10 million of EBITDA to BNED’s consolidated operation results over the next twelve months. Student Brands has negligible recurring capital expenditures, resulting in strong free cash flow generation. The acquisition will be accretive to BNED’s EBITDA, Net Income and Cash Flow in FY2018. Additionally, the acquisition is structured to “step up” the tax basis of Student Brands’ assets and is expected to result in significant future tax savings.
Student Brands will operate as a part of BNED’s digital operations and will serve as its initial anchor asset for BNED’s direct-to-student growth strategy. Mr. Swalla will remain CEO of Student Brands and the current Student Brands leadership team will join BNED as full-time employees. Student Brands will retain its offices in Los Angeles, CA and India.