Washington Post Co. Stock Tumbles on For-Profit Education Warning

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Washington Post Co. (WPO) stock was hammered in midday trading Friday, and was off 10.5% at the noon hour. Earlier in the day, WPO set a new 52-week low of $363.71 – a little more than four months after hitting a 52-week high of $547.18 a share.

Volume at midday was about 178,000 – or three times the average turnover for an entire trading session.

The high volume and the percentage decliner are highly unusual for the stock, which rarely swing more than 2% either way in a typical trading day.

Before markets opened Friday, the Post Co. released Q2 results that showed its net earnings jumped by nearly eight times its year-ago results, on revenue that was up 11%. But in the same breath it warned that proposed changes to federal education loans could impact the company’s biggest money-maker, its Kaplan education unit.

The Department of Education is taking a hard look at all for-profit schools, which Kaplan runs in addition to its well-known test preparation operations. The feds say too many people graduate from for-profit schools with a lot of debt and not many job prospects.

“[C]hanges ultimately made to the Title IV regulations could adversely affect, among other things, Kaplan’s ability to retain admissions and financial aid advisors and the ability of Kaplan Higher Education division’s programs and students to qualify for Title IV financial assistance, and could otherwise have a material adverse effect on Kaplan’s operating results,” the Post Co. said.

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