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American Public (APEI) Stock Up on Q4 Earnings, Revenue Beat

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American Public Education, Inc. (APEI - Free Report) reported impressive fourth-quarter 2020 results, wherein both the top and bottom lines beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate, and grew year over year. Following the solid results, the company’s shares gained 4.3% during the after-hours trading session on Mar 9.

In this regard, Angela Selden, the chief executive officer of American Public, stated, "Our successful efforts to bring our value proposition to a wider audience have contributed to five consecutive quarters of net course registration growth at APUS and record enrollment at Hondros."

Delving Deeper

For the fourth quarter, American Public reported adjusted earnings of 47 cents per share, beating the consensus mark of 38 cents by 23.7%. The reported figure also grew 25% from a year ago.

Total revenues of $85.9 million surpassed the consensus mark of $84 million by 2.2% and grew 15.4% from the year-ago period. The upside was mainly driven by solid performance across the business.

For the quarter, total costs and expenses — as a percentage of revenues — increased 30 basis points year over year to 88.7%. Adjusted EBITDA grew 18% year over year to $15.8 million.

Segment Discussion

APEI: Fourth-quarter revenues of $75.5 million grew 13.5% from the year-ago period. Within the APEI segment, the enrollment momentum at American Public University System’s (“APUS”) began in 2019, which continued for the fifth consecutive quarter, with total net course registrations increasing 11% for the fourth quarter driven by a robust 17% increase in new student registration.

For 2020, net course registrations increased nearly 12%, with new registrations rising 18% from the prior-year quarter.

HCN: For the fourth quarter, segment’s revenues rose 31.8% year over year to $10.4 million owing to improved enrollments. Both new and total student enrollment increased 34% year over year for the fourth quarter, respectively. Nursing starts for 2020 were up 50% from the year-ago quarter, leading to an all-time record enrollment of 2,139 students at 2020-end. The company expects this momentum to continue in 2021. For 2020, Hondros enrollment growth was 18% from 2019.

2020 Highlights

Earnings of $1.25 per share increased from 62 cents in 2019. Total revenues were $321.8 million, up from $286.3 million a year ago. Adjusted EBITDA increased 9.1% year over year to $50.6 million.

Financials

As of Dec 31, 2020, American Public had total cash and cash equivalents of $227.7 million compared with $202.7 million at 2019-end. Capital expenditure totaled $4.9 million for 2020 compared with $7.3 million a year ago.

First-Quarter 2021 Guidance

For first-quarter 2021, the company expects total revenues to grow 18% year over year. It anticipates earnings within 39-44 cents per share, indicating growth from 16 cents reported in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted EBITDA is expected between $13.8 and $14.7 million.

Net course registrations by new students at APUS are expected to increase 13% year over year. Total net course registrations are likely to grow 9% year over year. HCN’s new student and total student enrollment is expected to grow 45% each from the prior year.

Zacks Rank & Key Pick

American Public, which shares space with Grand Canyon Education, Inc. (LOPE - Free Report) the Zacks Schools industry, currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

A better-ranked stock in the same space is Adtalem Global Education Inc. (ATGE - Free Report) , carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) at present.

Adtalem has an expected three-five year earnings per share growth rate of 15%.

Peer Release

Strategic Education, Inc. (STRA - Free Report) or SEI reported fourth-quarter 2020 results, wherein earnings and revenues missed analysts’ expectations. Earnings declined on a year-over-year basis, primarily due to the issuance of new shares to facilitate the acquisition of Torrens University, and associated assets in Australia as well as New Zealand.

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