Shares of ed-tech company 2U plummet 57%

Shares of online education company 2U closed down 57% Friday, falling below $1 for much of the day after a problematic forecast and indications that some universities are terminating their contracts.

2U, which helps companies offer digital programs to students, posted a net loss of $47.4 million for the third quarter. Its adjusted loss of 15 cents per share was wider than the 13 cent loss analysts were expecting, according to LSEG, formerly known as Refinitiv. For the full year, 2U said it now expects revenue of $965 million to $990 million, down from its prior guidance of $985 to $990 million.

“These results did not meet our expectations given weaker demand in our coding boot camps and continued enrollment softness in some of our higher-priced degree programs,” CEO Christopher Paucek said at the beginning of the analysts’ call Thursday. “We also know we need to strengthen our balance sheet and are working on it diligently.”

The bigger concern with the forecast is that it includes revenue that will be paid to the company to terminate use of its programs. For example, 2U said the University of Southern California is paying $40 million to end the relationship.

“We thank USC for the role they’ve had in helping us build our company,” Paucek said on the call. “But ultimately, the programs we agreed to exit no longer align with our platform strategy.”

Analysts at Cantor Fitzgerald lowered their rating on the stock to “neutral” from “overweight,” and described 2U’s actions as a “fire sale to stay afloat.”

The company’s earnings report showed that it’s heavily reliant on one-time payments from universities and that its “core degree business is deteriorating,” the analysts wrote. The company also laid off 12% of its staff during the quarter and has a worrying debt load, with almost $880 million in long-term debt.

2U’s path to profitability was built on the idea that more degrees on the platform would lead to “meaningful profits,” the Cantor analysts wrote.

2U did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Shares of 2U debuted on the Nasdaq in 2014. The stock peaked in May 2018 at over $98 a share, giving the company a market cap above $5 billion. As of Friday, its valuation had sunk to $77 million.

If a stock on the Nasdaq trades below $1 for 30 consecutive days, the exchange may start delisting procedures. Some companies undergo a reverse stock split to boost the share price above $1, though that does nothing to fix their financial problems.

Scooter company Bird was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in September after failing to keep its market cap above $15 million for 30 straight days. That was after a 1-for-25 reverse split to get the stock over $1. Office-sharing company WeWork filed for bankruptcy this week, after declaring a 1-for-40 reverse split in August that was meant to try and retain its NYSE listing.

2U shares were down 57% to $1.03 cents at market close Friday.

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