Wiley’s $175m acquisition of CrossKnowledge, a global corporate learning business based in France, appears to mark a step-change in the battle for leadership in the fast-growing corporate education market.
With education publishers and for-profit education businesses struggling against tighter public education spend, competition is growing to shift towards corporate budgets that are rebounding rapidly from the recession. However these are rarely traditional content businesses. Instead, much of the value lies in developing the software to push the learning content into the workflow as well as the consulting and related services. The result is to push publishers and for-profit education businesses into direct competition with technology and outsourcing groups.
It is the latest in a recent surge of M&A activity which includes the acquisition of Skillsoft by Charterhouse for $2bn and a number of smaller deals including the sale of Line Communications to Learning Technologies Group, Capita’s acquisition of Knowledge Pool and the purchase of Kineo and Kineo Asia-Pacific by City & Guilds. The market remains highly fragmented and so we would expect the rate of M&A to increase. Perhaps even more interesting will be to see the longer-term implications of the collision of major content, technology and services business which until recently have rarely been forced to compete.