Trading update

Malvern International plc (AIM: MLVN), the global learning and skills development partner, is pleased to provide a trading update for the year ended 31 December 2023 (“FY23”), and current trading.

FY23

The preliminary unaudited assessment of trading for FY23 indicates an increase in revenues of 79% to circa £11.3m (FY22 restated to exclude agent commission income: £6.3m) and a small profit before tax from trading activities of circa £0.3m (FY22 Loss: £1.0m). Trading activities exclude annual revaluations of warrants and share based payments, as well as £0.2m losses relating to discontinued operations from the Brighton school.

The cash balance at 31 December 2023 was £2.2m (FY22: £1.2m). As with the prior year, the cash balance is better than management were expecting due to the late invoicing to the company of summer accommodation costs for Juniors of £1.0m (FY22: £0.7m). The balance of term loans amounted to £2.1m (FY22: £2.5m) and lease liabilities totalled £2.7m (FY22: £3.1m). Consequently unaudited net debt was £2.6m (FY22: £4.4m). 

H2 saw another strong high season return for Juniors with £3.7m revenue from 2,478 students, predominately during July and August 2023 (H2 FY22: 975 students and £1.3m). Adult ELT revenue from our Manchester and London schools increased 13% to circa £1.8m (H2 FY22: £1.6m) with July and August 2023 performing 20% higher than the previous year, reflecting a return in confidence in the market. A higher than expected 447 students joined the International Study Centre at the University of East London (UEL) in September 2023, due to exceptional results from certain markets and programmes.

The combination of growth across all three divisions resulted in H2 revenue increasing from £4.2m in FY22 to circa £7.3 m in FY23.

Current trading and outlook

Juniors and English Learning Training (“ELT”)

The current revenue pipeline for Juniors is showing significant growth at £6.5m for FY24 (FY23: £3.7m). Of this around 20% originates from China and Taiwan (up from 4% in FY23) following our investment in sales and marketing in the region, in addition to growing our existing Italian accounts. ELT continues to perform in line with expectations with a steady increase in student numbers and revenue growth.

On the back of this momentum, we have appointed a very experienced sales director to drive product development and help scale the Junior and ELT divisions, as well as developing academic programmes to extend our geographic reach and build out of season revenues.

University Pathways

January’s student intake for University Pathways was once again ahead of management expectations with circa 330 students enrolled (January 2022: 245 students, January 2021: 80 students). We currently have circa 770 students studying on courses for the 2023/24 academic year, up 62% on 2022/23 which had 475 students.

Following exceptional entry numbers for the 2023/24 academic year, early bookings for the 2024/25 are expected to soften following changes in UK government immigration rules. Our rapid scaling of the International Student Centre at UEL has made it one of the larger UK Pathway centres and this is expected to continue. Our performance in student recruitment has been accompanied by high levels of student attainment and satisfaction and is a feature of our existing contract with the university, as well as in our ongoing discussions with them regarding a longer-term contract renewal for the 2025/26 academic year and beyond.

International students remain vital to the financial sustainability of many universities, and we continue to leverage our success with UEL to secure new partnerships. To support this, we are making strategic hires in our business development and sales and marketing teams, with senior individuals who have strong track-records in building higher education businesses and forming successful university partnerships.

Universities UK have recently announced a review of admissions practices, following recent press speculation around students’ access to UK universities. At UEL, our admissions and compliance processes are fully embedded within the University’s teams to maximise their oversight of our practices and procedures, and our agent management procedures comply with UK Visa Immigration requirements.

Mark Elliott, Chairman, said: I am very pleased with the progress being made by the management team. This, together with the investment in the business development and sales and marketing teams, combined with an expanded agent network is supporting the growth in student numbers. Through this we are building a high performance team, and attracting talent with significant track records and profiles in our industry, and who have bought into our growth ambitions.

We remain watchful of – and are preparing for – shifting visa and academic student requirements for higher education and the changes the University Pathways business may face as a result. In response, we are making strategic investments in people, products and locations to scale Juniors and build adult ELT numbers at our schools. The result will see a more balanced mix of revenues between the three divisions and the Board remains confident that FY24 will see further growth in revenue and profit.