Private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC (APO.N) is in advanced talks to buy for-profit education provider Apollo Education Group Inc (APOL.O) for about $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Shares of Apollo Education, valued at about $714 million as of Friday, rose 21 percent in extended trading on Monday after the WSJ report.
The owner of the University of Phoenix said earlier in the day that it was considering selling itself, after years of declining enrolments.
The company's shares spiked as much as 17 percent in regular trading before closing down 3 percent.
Apollo Education had been in talks with a number of private equity firms since late last year, but Apollo Global Management is the only one still in the running, the Journal said, citing a person familiar with the matter. (on.wsj.com/1Pom0uY)
A deal between Apollo Global Management and Apollo Education could be reached in the next few weeks, the Journal reported.
Apollo Education and rivals such as DeVry Education Group Inc (DV.N) and ITT Educational Services ESI.N have faced tougher regulation since a series of government investigations in 2010 revealed low graduation rates and poor job prospects for graduates, who were also burdened with high student debt.
Stricter funding rules from the U.S. Department of Education have also squeezed federal tuition aid, which has been a major source of revenue for the for-profit education providers.
The U.S. Department of Defense put the University of Phoenix on probation in October, barring it from recruiting students on military bases or using federal money to fund tuition.
The decision followed investigations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the state of California, which are ongoing.
The FTC, in July, demanded information about the university's marketing and advertising techniques, which it said may have been deceptive.
The California Attorney General's office issued a subpoena in August, seeking information on recruiting of military and National Guard personnel and the use of military logos and emblems in marketing.
Apollo's stock, which traded as high as $7.70, lost more than three-quarters of its value in the past 12 months. The stock was up 8 percent at $7.10 in mid-morning trading - a far cry from its record-high of $97.93 in 2004.
Under pressure at home, Apollo has been focusing on expanding its international operations through Apollo Global.
Apollo, which bought Germany-based education provider Career Partner GmbH for about $105 million in December, said on Monday it expected Apollo Global's revenue to grow by 20 percent in 2016. The unit contributed about 15 percent of Apollo's total revenue in 2015.
The company also reported a drop in revenue for the 18th straight quarter as new degree enrollments at Phoenix fell 38.1 percent.
Barclays and Credit Suisse are advising Apollo while Sullivan & Cromwell are providing legal advice.
(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera and Radhika Rukmangadhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Ted Kerr)