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Piper Jaffray Ups Career Education Target

Piper Jaffray raised its estimates and target on Career Education (CECO).

Analyst Mark Marostica says the for-profit eduction provider's outperformance was mainly driven by strong peformance of the company's Online Education Group. He says the company's online student population at Apr. 30, 2004 was 15,600, well above his 13,000 to 13,500 estimate.

Marostica says first-quarter days sales outstanding were 25 days, down from 33 days, while operating margin was 46.9%, up from above 20.1% a year ago. In addition, Career Education also reported another strong same-school population growth metric of 29% year-over-year as of the end of April, 2004, vs. 28% year-over-year as of the end of January, 2004.

Marostica raised the $1.63 2004 earnings per share estimate to $1.78, and upped the $2.03 2005 esitmate to $2.26. His price target is now $80, and he's keeping the outperform rating.

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