SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) has made a foray into the education business with a $12 million cash investment in a local pre-school operator.

The deal gives SPH a 22 per cent stake in MindChamps Preschool (Worldwide), which operates and franchises early childhood curriculum and enrichment programmes.

MindChamps, which was set up in 2008 by Mr David Chiem, said in a statement yesterday that it commands the largest market share among premium pre- schools in Singapore and has set its sights on overseas expansion. There are 30 MindChamps PreSchools and MindChamps Reading and Writing Centres in Singapore.

The firm, which says that it applies the latest research in education, psychology and neuroscience to its teaching methods, has risen to be a popular brand in pre-school education.

Its rapid expansion has been helped by its franchise business model which lets independent operators, or "franchisees", open their own centres under the MindChamps brand. The company was named Singapore's Franchisor of the Year by the Franchising and Licensing Association (Singapore) last October.

SPH said in a Singapore Exchange filing yesterday that the investment sum of $12 million factored in the company's assets, intellectual property and business prospects of MindChamps and its subsidiaries.

Its stake in MindChamps follows on the heels of other acquisitions recently.

SPH invested an undisclosed sum this month in San Francisco- based digital advertising firm Smaato, which is involved in "programmatic advertising" - the instantaneous auctioning of digital ads across the globe.

Last year, SPH unveiled a $100 million fund for investments in media-related businesses.

It also invested about $1.81 million in restaurant-booking website Chope in March last year.

SPH, which has a 70 per cent stake in SPH Reit which owns Paragon and Clementi Mall, posted a full-year net profit of $431 million for the financial year ended Aug 31 last year. Operating revenue was $1.24 billion.

SPH chief executive Alan Chan said last year that the company is studying new growth opportunities while exploring ways to reinvigorate its core media business.

SPH shares closed up one cent at $4.14 yesterday before the MindChamps deal was announced.