Why 2U Inc. Stock Tumbled Today

What:Shares of cloud-based higher-education solutions provider2U were down 14.6% as of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday after the company released better-than-expected third-quarter results, but followed with light guidance.

So what:Quarterly revenue rose 31% year over year to $37.1 million, and translated to a net loss of $8.2 million, or $0.20 per share, compared to a $7.3 million, $0.18-per-share net loss in the year-ago period. On an adjusted basis, 2U's net loss narrowed to $4.9 million, or $0.12 per share, an improvement over 2U's adjusted loss of $5.1 million, or $0.13 per share in last year's third quarter. Adjusted EBITDA also improved to a loss of $2.9 million, compared to an adjusted EBITDA loss of $3.4 million this time last year.

Analysts, on average, were anticipating 2U's revenue would increase 27.5% to $36.2 million, and translate to a wider adjusted loss of $0.18 per share. To analysts' credit, 2U's results also exceeded the company's own guidance, which called for revenue of $35.9 million to $36.3 million, and an adjusted net loss per share of $0.19 to $0.18.

In addition, 2U announced two new programs with current partners today, including a new Master of Counseling for Mental Health program with New York University, and a Master of Health Informatics program with George Washington University. 2U also revealed it has signed a contract extension with Georgetown University for an additional five years, which brings the initial contract term between 2U and Georgetown to 17 years. For perspective, 2U's initial contracts typically last between 10 and 15 years.

Now what:Looking forward, however, 2U also provided guidance for the current quarter for revenue of $41.7 million to $42.1 million, and an adjusted loss per share of $0.04 to $0.03. Both ranges are below analysts' models, which predicted adjusted net income of $0.01 per share on fourth-quarter revenue near the high end of that range. Even so, keep in mind 2U has made a habit of under-promising and over-delivering, and CEO Chip Paucek was quick to point out Q4 -- which is seasonally its strongest period -- is expected to be the company's first ever adjusted-EBITDA positive quarter.

Finally, 2U offered initial guidance for 2016 revenue to increase 30% to 32%, and an adjusted EBITDA loss margin of 2% to 1% (thanks in part to the costs of adding a sixth program launch during the year), an improvement over the roughly 5% adjusted EBITDA loss margin expected when all is said and done in 2015. By contrast, Wall Street was expecting 2U to achieve revenue growth in excess of 34% next year.

Of course, this doesn't rule out the possibility of 2U extending its streak of over-performing relative to guidance. And as I discussed in an interview with Paucek shortly after the company's IPO last year, investors need to keep in mind this is a long-term play, as to start each new program requires significant initial investments from 2U.

For now, however -- and while I still think 2U holds promise for patient investors as it makes progress toward sustained profits -- it's no surprise our short-term-oriented market is aggressively bidding shares down today.

The article Why 2U Inc. Stock Tumbled Today originally appeared on Fool.com.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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