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Aussie education merger spells change for NZ

Last month’s proposed merger of Australia’s two largest financial services education firms, Kaplan and Finsia Education, looks set to reverberate in New Zealand.

Tuesday, May 22nd 2007, 6:35AM

by David Chaplin

Kaplan, a global education division of US publisher The Washington Post offered A$36 million for Finsia Education in April and plans to merge it with Tribeca Learning, which it purchased last year for A$56 million.

New Zealand’s dominant financial planning education provider, Adviserlink, licenses Tribeca courses, however, earlier this year Finsia began developing a rival program for advisers here.

A spokesperson for Finsia in Australia said the merged group would have to consider whether to drop the development of its financial adviser vocational courses in New Zealand. As well, the spokesperson said the Tribeca relationship with Adviserlink would come under scrutiny.

“The reality is that things will continue as they are through 2007 but we may look at possible synergies in 2008,” the Finsia spokesperson said.

However, Leonie Wallwork, head of Adviserlink, said there was “no change to Adviserlink’s licensing arrangement with Tribeca and we will continue to distribute the Kiwi version of Tribeca’s courses”.

Wallwork said Adviserlink has also scheduled talks with Kaplan after its Finsia deal has been bedded down. “The chairman of Adviserlink, John Godfrey, advised that he had spoken earlier this week with Kaplan and that it had been agreed to further discuss possible mutual options and opportunities after the Finsia transaction has been completed and they have formulated their broad strategy for Australia and NZ,” she said.

Warren Jacobsen, head of Kaplan Australia, confirmed the Adviserlink licensing agreement remained “on foot” and that the two groups would meet post the Finsia transaction to discuss “specific opportunities” to work together.

Jacobsen said Kaplan already does a “reasonable amount of business” in the New Zealand real estate training but the group has not been directly active in financial advisory education.

“Now with Finsia we will have direct access to the New Zealand financial adviser market,” Jacobsen said.

However, he said the overlap of Kaplan/Tribeca with Finsia was minimal.

“The vast majority of our business is complementary... Finsia focuses on higher education while Tribeca operates more in the vocational market,” Jacobsen said.

Kaplan’s offer must be approved by at least 50% of Finsia members in a vote due on May 18. If Finsia members approve the deal it must then get final sign-off from Australia’s higher education authority.

As well as its nascent financial adviser training courses in New Zealand Finsia also offers post-graduate courses and provides a diploma program for members of the NZX.

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