You've probably never heard of American Public Education
It's OK. I'm about to declassify it for you.
Shares of the online educator rose 7% in yesterday's ho-hum market, after the company posted an inspiring quarterly report. Revenue climbed 49% to $31.5 million. Earnings made the most of widening margins, surging 67% to $5.0 million. It translates into a more modest 42% profit boost to $0.27 on a per share basis, but that is the result of the additional shares that were tacked on during its IPO in November of 2007. Make a note of that last point. You'll need it later to complete this mission.
American Public Education runs a pair of virtual campuses. American Military University primarily markets its degree programs to military personnel and their families. American Public University caters to the public service community, though civilians are free to enroll at any of the two online universities.
Online education is a fast growing and seemingly recession-resistant industry. University of Phoenix parent Apollo Group
Most of these companies have been growing despite -- or perhaps as a result -- of the economic downturn. Displaced workers need to brush up their on new career skills, and online campuses offer economically attractive programs. American Public University, for example, charges a reasonable tuition of $250 for each undergraduate course credit.
The industry is so hot that the only company to go public during the last four months of 2008 is Grand Canyon Education
So let's back to American Public Education. The company has seen a 50% spike in enrollment over the past year. It closed out 2008 with 45,200 virtual students.
Now that is has earned $0.86 a share for all of 2008, or 34% above 2007's showing, it is guiding analysts to expect $1.16 a share to $1.20 a share this year. In other words, the company sees a 35% to 40% bottom-line spike this year. The company won't go out further than that, but analysts will. They see the company growing its net income by 44% to $1.71 a share in 2010.
Trading at 46 times this year's earnings and 23 times next year's projected profitability isn't cheap, but did you catch the company's growth rates? More importantly, did you catch the freakishly awesome trend of accelerating earnings growth?
Well, this is why I asked you to remember the company's 4.7 million share IPO in November of 2007, and how it jacked up the shares outstanding. Income itself actually soared 85% in 2008. It debunks the "accelerated growth" claim for 2009 (but not 2010).
However, the stock has also easily topped Wall Street -- and its own -- expectations in each of its first five quarters as a public company. If that isn't enough for a military salute -- especially at a time when concerns of the country scaling back military personnel may compel many of them to enroll at AMU -- then you may as well wave a white flag at the growth stock before you.
Some interesting ways to profit from the IPO void:
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of new stocks, and has even recommended several fresh IPOs to newsletter readers in the past. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.