October 27, 2021

Capella Growth on Growth Is Finally Here; New Enrollment Results and Guidance Solid

capellaGrowth on Growth Is Finally Here; New Enrollment Results and Guidance Solid

• Stock thoughts: A solid first quarter was highlighted by starts growth on a positive starts comp for the first time in 14 quarters. This result was particularly impressive because it was accomplished at a lower year-over-year cost of student acquisition (marketing and admissions spending per new enrollment).
• Perhaps even more importantly, management guided to midsingle-digit starts growth in the second quarter on a 12.7% starts growth comp, implying two-year starts growth of nearly 20%, a demand growth rate that is at or above the high end of the sector.
• Instructional costs per enrollment rose slightly and operating margins were within the guided range but 40 basis points below consensus estimates. We believe operating leverage remains very strong, but the company is reinvesting a bit in new delivery methods like Sophia and Flexpath, products that should drive demand in 2015 and beyond. We also note that the company delivered very strong recurring operating margin guidance of 16.5% to 17.5% in the second quarter, 20 basis points above consensus and a 260-basis-point expansion year-over-year at the midpoint.
• All of this was accomplished with sector-leading retention and retention improvement. Capella appears to have built a better mousetrap and has virtually no policy concerns because of its strong student outcomes and high-quality working adult demographics, allowing it to operate with fewer constraints than other providers in the postsecondary group. We do not believe the current valuation reflects this perspective; we remain strong buyers and reiterate our Outperform rating.
Link to Full Report: https://www.rdocs.com/getrdocnologin.asp?p=148119&zId=46652


Timo Connor, CFA

William Blair www.williamblair.com