Private school operator Curro grew revenue and profit in the first half of its financial year, despite continuing losses from its Meridian schools pitched at lower-income households.

Curro’s overall revenue grew 18% to R1.2bn during the six months to end-June, it reported on Tuesday morning.

Following the unbundling of its tertiary education arm Stadio into a separately listed company in October, Curro now segments itself into two divisions: its flagship Curro branded schools, and its 65%-owned Meridian partnership with Old Mutual.

Curro’s revenue contribution to the group grew 20% to R1.1bn while Meridian’s grew 3% to R140m.

Meridian cut its learner numbers back by 3% to 9,335 while Curro increased its pupils by 14% to 41,356 from the end of June 2017.

Curro’s interim headline earnings contribution grew 17% to R150m while Meridian’s loss narrowed to R12m from R15m in the first half of the 2017 financial year.

To help Meridian turn profitable, the group said it had resolved to replace "expensive interest-bearing debt" with an interest-free loan of R256m.

"This will significantly improve the profitability of this venture and will have a positive impact on Curro going forward," the results statement said.

The group owned 139 schools at the end of June, 12 more than at the end of December.

Acquisitions during the reported period included Gaborone-based Baobab Primary School, Douglasdale-based Cooper College, and Dot’s Learning Centre.