Online University Offers Cheaper Education, Grows By Leaps, Bounds and Genzyme Shares Regain Some Ground

Bridgepoint’s enrollment has gone from just 1,063 students in 2005 to almost 54,000, nearly all of them earning degrees online at Ashford University.

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One reason for the fast growth is that Bridgepoint keeps tuition 20% to 50% lower than most other for-profit colleges. It also accepts up to 99 transfer credits from other schools to go toward the 120 credits needed to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Those two points “resonate with students,” said Bridgepoint’s founder and chief executive, Andrew Clark. “That is what has contributed to our strong growth.”

Bridgepoint’s students are typically working adults. Their average age is 33. Some of the more popular programs are in business, organizational management and education.

The company started from scratch just six years ago. But Clark had financial support from a rich patron private-equity firm Warburg Pincus which still owns 58% of the company’s shares. [Read the full article]

Shares gained more than 3% to 52.96 mid-Friday. Earlier in the day, Leerink Swann upgraded the stock to outperform from market perform.

Genzyme shares fell more than 13% over a two-day period as Wall Street reacted to the March 24 news that the FDA will take enforcement action stemming from a series of manufacturing problems that stalled production of key drugs.

The agency will likely require that a third party inspect and review plant operations for an extended period of time at the Allston facility.

“This is a materially negative development, ” JPMorgan analyst Geoffrey Meacham wrote in a note. On March 25 he downgraded Genzyme to underweight from neutral and cut his share price target to 45 from 55.

To fortify itself against an uncertain future, Big Pharma will look to a class of drugs it has mostly ignored, says a new report from investment analysis firm Morningstar. [Read the full article]

The year is off to a decent start, but the Consumer Electronics Association still expects 2010 sales to be flat with last year’s total, $681 billion.

The outlook in the U.S. is a little brighter. The CEA predicts that factory sales of consumer electronics will reach $165.3 billion domestically, up 0.3% from 2009, with a good chance for higher growth.

Sony launched its 3-D television in Tokyo earlier this month as a model watched with special glasses included with the set. Sony plans to start… View Enlarged Image

“There is a lot of potential to the upside,” said Steve Koenig, an analyst at the Consumer Electronics Association. [Read the full article]

Pharma is taking tentative steps into the market for orphan drugs, or those that serve small populations of patients who have rare diseases.

The potential for success in this area has been “underrecognized by the equity markets,” said Damien Conover, senior pharmaceutical analyst at Morningstar.

The Food and Drug Administration defines orphan drugs as serving fewer than 200,000 U.S. patients. The leader among drugmakers in the sector is Novartis (NVS). It recognized the market opportunity years ago.

Novartis drugs Zometa, Gleevec, Sandostatin and Exjade were launched with orphan status. Their combined estimated sales this year is $8 billion.

Other big drugmakers are taking notice. In February, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced the launch of a unit to specialize in orphan drug research and development. [Read the full article]

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