Michael Pascoe writes:

ABC Learning founder and CEO Eddy Groves is a charming fella with a nice line in enthusiastic presentations. But his credibility must have had stretch marks at the end of his address to the NSW Council of Social Service conference yesterday.

According to The SMH‘s Kelly Burke, Eddy isn’t in the child care business to make money, he “just wants the 70,000 Australian children under his care to have a bright future”:

He told the delegates, mostly not-for-profit providers of welfare and children’s services, that if ABC Learning’s profit between 2002 and 2005 was added up it stood at about $100 million, “but we’ve re-invested back into the [750 Australian] child-care centres $100 million. We’re not-for-profit too.”

Well that’s certainly a different sort of presentation from the one he gives to investors. They’re left with the impression that ABC Learning is definitely in it for profit – and unlimited growth as well. And that’s why ABC Learning shares are trading above $8.

Mr Groves says the intentions of his multinational business have been misrepresented in the media. “And misrepresentation builds fear,” he said. “I understand [the] fear from the community [sector] but I’m not to blame for it.”

Instead, Mr Groves says his success in delivering child-care services to thousands of desperate mothers yearning to return to work is largely thanks to the behemoth nature of ABC Learning, which in turn is due to its decision to go public and provide the capital needed to expand.

“For me, [being] publicly listed in this industry is the best thing that’s ever happened to us and ABC,” he said.

Yep, no-one’s going to argue with that.

Peter Fray

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