Capella’s outlook sends its shares down

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 18, 2014 - 9:30 PM

The company’s fourth-quarter profit was better than analysts expected, but enrollment growth remains slow.

Capella Education Co. warned that enrollment will take longer to grow than expected.

Capella Education Co.’s fourth-quarter results beat investors’ expectations, but executives said it would take longer than expected for the online university to see an uptick in enrollments.

As a result, the company’s shares fell about 6.6 percent Tuesday.

Minneapolis-based Capella earned $10 million, or 79 cents a share, for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31. That’s up from 68 cents a year earlier and above analysts’ expectation of 76 cents a share.

Revenue was $106 million, down 1 percent and just below analysts’ expectation of $106.4 million.

Capella draws heavily on adults seeking advanced or new degrees and its enrollment figures tend to rise under good economic conditions. The company has been grappling with small declines in enrollment, and Tuesday’s statement amounted to a change in outlook.

“Performance trends stabilized in 2013,” Capella CFO Steve Polacek said in a statement. “While the timing of our return to total enrollment growth has likely shifted to the latter part of 2014, we believe moderate annual new enrollment growth and operating margin improvements are achievable in 2014.”

For the first quarter of 2014, Capella’s new enrollment growth is expected to be “slightly positive compared to the first quarter 2013,” the firm said. But total enrollment is expected to drop 1.5 to 2.5 percent. Revenue is expected to be flat to down 1 percent from a year earlier.

The company earned $2.80 per share in 2013, just above the $2.78 analysts had expected and up slightly from $2.76 a share in 2012. Net earnings were $35.2 million, down 3.5 percent, on revenue of $415.6 million, down 1.5 percent.

Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553

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