* Third-quarter adj. profit $0.76/shr vs est. $0.66
* Narrows full-year forecast for revenue, operating profit
* Shares rise as much as 4 percent (Adds analyst comments, updates share)
By Abinaya Vijayaraghavan
June 25 For-profit education provider Apollo Education Group reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as new enrollments saw its smallest decline in a year, sending its shares up as much as 4 percent.
New enrollments at its flagship University of Phoenix fell only 13 percent in the third quarter as scholarships and a thrust on job-oriented curriculum attracted more students. They had fallen 16.5 percent in the preceding quarter.
The company stood by its 2014 target of 230,000 enrollments, Apollo's Senior Vice President Greg Cappelli said on a conference call with analysts.
The company plans to roll out more than 45 certificate programs this year in business, education, IT and healthcare.
Apollo, which gets about one-eighth of its revenue from outside the United States, has been trying to boost its global presence through acquisitions to offset falling enrollments at home.
Apollo acquired an 81 percent interest in South Africa-based Milpark Education and 70 percent of Australia-based Open Colleges last year.
"International is growing and that is certainly helping to offset what is going on in the United States," First Analysis Securities Corp analyst Corey Greendale said.
The for-profit-education sector has been struggling with declining enrollments for three years and is under U.S. government pressure to improve their performance.
Apollo has also cut jobs and shut down campuses to save costs in the United States.
Government investigations have revealed high levels of student debt, low graduation rates and poor job prospects for those who do graduate.
Net income attributable to Apollo fell 17 percent to $66 million, or 59 cents per share, in the quarter ended May 31.
Excluding items, the company earned 76 cents per share, well above the average analyst estimate of 66 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue fell 15.5 percent to $799.9 million. Analysts had expected $794.4 million.
The company also tightened its full-year 2014 forecast and now expects revenue of $3.04 billion-$3.06 billion and operating income of $420 million-$435 million.
The company earlier forecast revenue of $3.00 billion to $3.10 billion and operating income of $400 million to $450 million.
The Phoenix, Arizona-based company's shares were up 3 percent at $30.17 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq. (Reporting By Abinaya Vijayaraghavan; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Don Sebastian)