Online job marketplace Seek has pounced on two leading international online courseware suppliers to the tune of $142 million as the Australian headquartered body shop ramps-up its diversification push into employment-related learning and development.
The company on Monday told the Australian Securities Exchange it had forked out $92 million for a 50 percent stake in FutureLearn alongside a $50 million purchase of a “minority interest” in Coursera with the twin transactions cited as “primary raisings with proceeds used to accelerate growth”.
“FutureLearn and Coursera are global leaders in online education each of which have a proven track record in educating millions of learners and partnering with world class education institutions,” Seek’s chief executive and co-Founder Andrew Bassat said.
“Both businesses are leveraged to structural trends such as migration of education online and in helping millions of people to adapt to evolving labour markets
“The long-term opportunity is to significantly increase accessibility of ‘career ready’ education to the rapidly growing pool of learners.”
The buys come as the online employment marketplace becomes increasingly crowded and commoditised, forcing market heavyweights to reach deeper down into the employment pipeline by trying to clip the ticket on skills and credentials employers want in employees.
While the latest acquisitions are broad qualification and education plays, the gun segment in the sector remains technology skills with many employers now looking to upskill or reskill existing staff in the face of protracted skills shortages for specialists like cyber security staff and some kinds of developers.
Technology megavendors have also piled into the employment market, most notably Microsoft which snapped-up LinkedIn for US$26 billion in 2016, a transaction that many expect will result in the software behemoth developing its own recruitment vertical by eventually roping in its Teams collaboration play.
Bassat is talking-up the latest buy as an opportunity to snatch international leadership in the online education market.
“FutureLearn has already invested significant capital to build a leading online education platform. It is operating on a large scale and is a trusted partner to 150+ education and specialist institutions and 9 [million] learners. Alongside founding shareholder Open University, SEEK is excited to play an active role to commercialise FutureLearn,” the Seek CEO said.
“Proceeds from SEEK’s investment will be used to grow a number of new courses linked to employment outcomes, online marketing, initiatives to grow the student experience and overall retention. FutureLearn is a unique opportunity to build a global market leader and if we execute well the long-term upside is significant.”
Seek told investors it estimates the new acquisitions “partner with world class higher education institutions and global businesses and have attracted a combined c49 million learners.”