Nord Anglia has sold its 88 kindergartens to Australian rival ABC Nurseries for £31.2m, less than half the £73m it paid for them three years ago.

The decision was the result of an oversupply of children’s nurseries. Nord Anglia was until yesterday the country’s largest nursery school operator, owning the Leapfrog, Jigsaw and Petits Enfants brands.

The company will use the cash to pay off its debts, and concentrate on its more profitable international schools, aimed at the children of expatriates, and its educational services division.

Nord Anglia could not maintain the occupancy levels needed to offset running costs. Last year Nord Anglia lost £3.5m on its nursery operation, on turnover of £47.1m.

Closures of poorly performing nurseries mean that the company is expected to generate around £1 million of profit for the year to August 2007. Even the value of the property sold, at £40.9 million, is in excess of the disposal price.

ABC is the world’s largest nursery operator. It owns 1,200 nurseries in the US and entered the UK last year after buying the Busy Bees chain.