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FPA Capital Fund Comments on Apollo Education Group Inc

Looking beyond the poor performance of the energy stocks in the quarter and consistent with our investment strategy, we trimmed back two companies, Apollo Education ( APOL ) and InterDigital ( IDCC ). InterDigital creates and designs different wireless technologies and then licenses those patents to hardware manufacturers. Apollo provides on-line educational services and grants Bachelor and post- graduate degrees through its For-profit schools.

APOL ( APOL ) operates the online school called the University of Phoenix (UoP) as well as several international schools. UoP generates approximately 85% of Apollo's revenue but 100% of its operating earnings. The international schools account for roughly 15% of revenues and are currently losing money but we believe they are quickly moving toward break-even and eventually profitability.

The core operation for Apollo is UoP, which is the largest independent online university in the US. UoP was the first For-profit company to offer online degrees over thirty years ago. The University of Phoenix is a well-known brand, but one that is in the process of being upgraded.

The company has invested a tremendous amount of capital into developing superior software programs not only to educate students, but also to provide a more timely feedback loop to professors who are teaching classes. As UoP rolls out this new software to all of its students, one should expect some disruptions to the business. Thus far, just 3% of the students have incurred a negative experience and dropped out of school. Nevertheless, student satisfaction and superior service for UoP's cohort of students should help the company differentiate its platform versus either other For-profit or traditional Not- for-profit universities.

APOL is also aggressively courting businesses not just to place their graduates in a well-paying job, but to partner with them and tailor certificate programs that provide students with skills specific to an individual company or industry. Many CEOs will tell you that there is not a jobs problem in America but a skills problem. That is, many traditional, Not-for-profit universities in America are not educating students and imbuing them with skills for the 21st century global labor marketplace. APOL is now working with hundreds of companies to deliver graduates, whether they are fully credentialed students or students with a narrower certificate degree, to businesses that are looking to hire qualified people.

These initiatives will take time to fully implement and for shareholders to see tangible benefits. In the meantime, APOL management has cut expenses like marketing and recruiting to reflect the lower enrollment numbers to maintain profits and free cash flow at the company. Given where APOL was trading, we trimmed back the positioned about 25% during the quarter.

From FPA Capital Fund ( Trades , Portfolio) Q4 2014 Letter.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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