JSE-listed independent education provider, Curro has reported a 5% increase in revenue for the financial year ended December 2020, with learner numbers increasing despite a move to remote learning under Covid-19 lockdown.
Revenue climbed to R3.1 billion, while school’s earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased 1.4% to R886 million, and group EBITDA decreased by 1% to R686 million.
Headline earnings decreased 32% to R171 million, while headline earnings per share decreased 39% to 36.4 cents per share.
Despite the challenging conditions brought on by Covid-19 and a period whereby learners were mostly educated remotely, average learner numbers increased 6%, to 60,777 at the end of 2020, Curro said.
With 2021 registrations included in the tally, the number of registered learners at Curro schools rose to 66,153 in February 2021, said Andries Greyling, chief executive officer of Curro Holdings.
Greyling said that for the first quarter of last year, Curro traded above expectations in terms of learner number growth and fee collections, however finances were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
“Revenue was impacted by lower ancillary school income, which was lower than in 2019, and an increase in discounts granted from 7.2% of revenue to 10.9% of gross revenue,” he said. “This includes once off Covid-19 related discounts amounting to R81 million.”
Curro said it is working to make education more accessible to learners, which resulted in the launch of an online school in the midst of the pandemic – providing remote teaching and learning for learners from Grade 4 to Grade 10.
The group opened Curro Online in mid-June 2020, and currently has more than 600 learners enrolled.
Additionally, the group has implemented other e-learning solutions, the latest being Curro Choice – an e-learning offering that launched in February 2021 to broaden the range of subjects available to every Curro high school learner nationwide.
Looking ahead, the education group said it will continue to invest in the business, and make better use of its existing facilities as the education landscape changes.
In the 2020 financial year, it invested R650 million in the business, mainly in respect of the completion of projects already started in 2019 to expand capacity and replace moveable assets.
The group said it has reduced its exposure to nursery schools, where the market remains subdued, and is converting a number of its nursery schools to primary schools and assisted learning facilities.
“The primary objective for Curro remains increased capacity utilisation of its existing facilities,” it said.