ITT Educational’s profit plunges, but tops analyst expectations

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ITT Educational Services Inc. saw its profits drop 22 percent in the fourth quarter, but still exceeded analysts' expectations.

The Carmel-based operator of for-profit colleges earned $76 million in the quarter, or $2.87 per share, compared with $97.5 million, or $3.14 per share, in the same quarter of 2010. The per-share profit decline shrank because ITT has reduced its number of outstanding shares by about 4.5 million in the past year.

The per-share profit performance far exceeded ITT’s own predicted range of $2.13 to $2.33, which the company issued in October. The company also topped the predictions of Wall Street analysts, who were expecting profit of $2.31 per share, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue in the quarter totaled $368.3 million, a 10-percent decline from the $410 million ITT brought in a year ago. The company has been suffering enrollment declines as the wave of students that went back to school in the recession has been subsiding. Congressional scrutiny of the value of for-profit degrees also has taken its toll on enrollment.

ITT’s enrollment of new students totaled 15,125 in the fourth quarter, down by 14.7 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago.

For all of 2011, ITT posted revenue of $1.5 billion and profit of $308 million, a 17.7-percent decline from the previous year. Overall student enrollment fell in 2011 by 13.5 percent, to 73,255.

ITT’s earnings per share for the year totaled $11.13, a slight decline from the year before, when it posted earnings of $11.17 per share.

Shares of ITT closed Wednesday at $69.40 apiece. The stock price has soared by nearly 38 percent in the past five weeks, although it is still far below its July peak of $95.44.

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