‘Big box’ daycare setting up in Maple Ridge

Monisha Martins, Maple Ridge News

A publicly-traded company focused on consolidating Canada’s fragmented childcare industry has acquired at least two daycares in Maple Ridge …

Edleun Group Inc. completed it purchase of the Maple Ridge businesses earlier this month and has agreements for two other redevelopment properties, as well an additional centres in B.C….

Located in Maple Ridge, Coquitlam, Port Moody and Kelowna, the five childcare centres with 422 licensed spaces were purchased ….

“These acquisitions are quite material, both strategically in terms of entrenching our expansion into British Columbia and financially due to their contribution to our bottom line profitability and cash flow.”

Edleun estimates there are 8,800 childcare centres across Canada and aims to become a larger player through acquisitions of new and existing operations, with plans to control 10 per cent of the Canadian market….

The company’s aggressive expansion plans, however, worry childcare advocates who characterized Edleun approach as “big box child care.”

“They are not really in the business of childcare, they are in the business of making money for their investors,” said Michael Lanier, chairperson for CUPE B.C.’s childcare working group….

Lanier points to Australia’s ABC Learning Centres as an example of a large-scale corporate childcare operations gone awry. At its height, ABC Learning Centres owned 25 per cent of the daycare spaces in Australia – more than 1,000 – centres but folded in 2008 with $1.6 billion of debt.

Wulf, Edleun’s CEO, was linked to ABC Learning Centres Canadian arm, 123 Busy Beavers.

“The Edleun Group is really involved in the real estate market,” said Lanier.

“They drive the competition out of the area. They buy buildings, set it all up and then they’ve got themselves a real estate investment. They are not really in this because they believe in child care. “…

Sanya Boatter, who owns Start Smart, a for-profit daycare with 170 spaces and a staff of 28, confirmed the company was sniffing around the Maple Ridge childcare market.

She, too, worries about a large corporation, focused on racking in profits for investors, caring for kids….