TAL Education Leads Consortium and Joins Benchmark Capital in Funding for Disruptive US Higher Education Provider, Minerva Project

Oct 15, 2014, 04:00 ET from TAL Education Group

BEIJING, Oct. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- TAL Education Group (NYSE: XRS) ("TAL" or the "Company"), a leading K-12 after-school tutoring services provider in China, announced today that it has led a China-based investment consortium and joined Silicon Valley-based Benchmark Capital to invest in a revolutionary new provider of undergraduate education in the US named Minerva Project, Inc. ("Minerva"). These investments by the TAL-led consortium and Benchmark represent an initial close for Minerva's Series B preferred stock financing, with a final close scheduled within 3 months thereafter that will total up to $70M of new financing.

Under the terms of the relevant investment agreement, a representative of TAL will also sit on the Minerva Project's Board, joining Ben Nelson, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Minerva Project, and Kevin Harvey, general partner at Benchmark Capital. Minerva will also appoint two additional Board members at a later date.

TAL is the leading investor in a China-based consortium that has jointly raised US$25 million to invest in Minerva. TAL has contributed US$18 million, and Yongjin Group and ZhenFund have collectively contributed the remaining US$7 million. Meanwhile, Benchmark Capital, which was the sole investor in the Series A preferred stock financing, completed in 2012, has also committed to participate in this round of financing with additional funding.

Minerva has reinvented the university experience through its innovative curriculum and use of technology to provide top quality education at a reasonable tuition to bright and motivated students from across the world. Minerva was founded in 2012 and since then has created the Minerva Schools at KGI ("Minerva Schools") in an alliance with the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences ("KGI"), a member of the Claremont University Consortium. Last month, the Minerva Schools opened its doors and its founding class of students officially kicked off their first year of studies. The founding class includes 29 students from 14 countries and territories, representing an admissions acceptance rate of 2.8%. Seven of the students are from China.

The Minerva Schools' undergraduate program is differentiated from other highly selective American universities in several ways. The Schools have a scaffolded curriculum that emphasizes the development of key "habits of the mind and foundational concepts" rather than knowledge dissemination. Through its proprietary technology platform, substantially all Minerva classes are small, online and seminar-style. The program has a rotational residency in major metropolitan cities across the world over the course of four years at the Minerva Schools. Also, the cost of tuition is comparatively low at approximately 25% of the cost of most highly selective, private US-based universities.

"We are very pleased to make this investment in Minerva. In the past year alone TAL had over 1 million enrollments in our enrichment programs and every year the brightest of our high school seniors will receive offers to attend the top universities in China. We hope that our strategic investment into, and the long-term relationship we are building with, Minerva will help top Chinese students seek opportunities to experience the innovative Minerva learning project in the near future," commented Bangxin Zhang, Chairman and CEO of TAL Education Group. "TAL and Minerva share similar forward-looking teaching philosophies and interest in trailblazing new technologies in the education experience. TAL's mission is to be at the crossroads of where education meets technology, combining internet and mobile initiatives with our classroom based teaching to deliver a more effective learning process. Likewise, Minerva's unique teaching approach and creative use of technology in the virtual classroom pioneers a new model for higher education. We look forward to working together in the international education arena as forerunners of technology-driven services that cultivate talented students into tomorrow's leaders."

"TAL is one of the most respected, top quality, and innovative education companies we have come across worldwide. We are pleased to have them lead our Series B funding round and join our Board as our philosophical approaches to education are in alignment," said Ben Nelson, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Minerva Project.  

Safe Harbor Statement

This announcement contains forward-looking statements. These statements are made under the "safe harbor" provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements can be identified by terminology such as "will," "expects," "anticipates," "future," "intends," "plans," "believes," "estimates" and similar statements. Among other things, quotations from management in this announcement, as well as TAL Education Group's strategic and operational plans, contain forward-looking statements. The Company may also make written or oral forward-looking statements in its reports filed with, or furnished to, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in its annual reports to shareholders, in press releases and other written materials and in oral statements made by its officers, directors or employees to third parties. Statements that are not historical facts, including statements about the Company's beliefs and expectations, are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve inherent risks and uncertainties. A number of factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statement, including but not limited to the following: its ability to continue to attract students to enroll in its courses; its ability to continue to recruit, train and retain qualified teachers; its ability to improve the content of its existing course offerings and to develop new courses; its ability to maintain and enhance its brand; its ability to maintain and continue to improve its teaching results; and its ability to compete effectively against its competitors. Further information regarding these and other risks is included in the Company's reports filed with, or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission. All information provided in this press release and in the attachments is as of the date of this press release, and TAL Education Group undertakes no duty to update such information or any forward-looking statement, except as required under applicable law.

About TAL Education Group

TAL Education Group is a leading K-12 after-school tutoring services provider in China. The acronym "TAL" stands for "Tomorrow Advancing Life," which reflects our vision to promote top learning opportunities for Chinese students through both high-quality teaching and content, as well as leading edge application of technology in the education experience. TAL Education Group offers comprehensive tutoring services to students from pre-school to the twelfth grade through three flexible class formats: small classes, personalized premium services, and online courses. Our tutoring services cover the core academic subjects in China's school curriculum including mathematics, English, Chinese, physics, chemistry, and biology. The Company's learning center network includes 285 physical learning centers as of May 31, 2014, located in 18 key cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xi`an, Chengdu, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Taiyuan, Zhengzhou, Chongqing, Suzhou, Shenyang, Jinan, Shijiazhuang and Qingdao. We also operate www.jzb.com, a leading online education platform in China. Our ADSs trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "XRS." For more information, please see http://en.100tal.com

Investor and Media Contact for TAL Education Group:

Mei Li Tel: +86 10 52926658 Email: ir@100tal.com

Caroline Straathof IR Inside Tel: +31 6 5462 4301 Email: info@irinside.com


SOURCE TAL Education Group