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Under Armour, W.R. Grace have upbeat week; Laureate Education gets sued

Two major employers in the state are our picks for today’s issue of “Best Week in Maryland.”

Under Armour Inc. and W.R. Grace & Co. both got a boost this week, with the Baltimore-based sportswear maker announcing record-high 2014 revenues and the Columbia-based chemical producer seeing a massive surge in its stock price.

Under Armour’s revenue grew to $3.08 billion last year, just as the company predicted. Earnings jumped to 95 cents per share for the year compared to 75 cents in 2013.

The company also announced two major deals this week: the $475 million acquisition of MyFitnessPal, a health- and fitness-tracking app based in San Francisco, and the $85 million purchase of Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a social fitness network.

As for W.R. Grace — which emerged last February from nearly 13 years in Chapter 11 bankruptcy — its announcement that it plans to split into two separate companies prompted a major spike in its stock price.

The stock rose by 12.3 percent that day, to $102.32 at the close of trading in New York, its highest price since July 2011. Grace’s division into two companies is not expected to negatively impact its 1,200 Maryland employees in the short term. Long-term impacts, however, are unknown.

Of course, not all Maryland companies had such a pleasant week.

Laureate Education Inc., an online education provider based in Baltimore, and its flagship online institution, Walden University, have been sued for allegedly intentionally prolonging the time it takes students to complete degrees.

The plaintiffs, who are seeking class action status for the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, cite “logistical problems” caused by rapid enrollment growth and “rampant faculty retention issues” as the primary issues responsible for the delays experienced by students.

The lawsuit alleges that Laureate and Walden have not addressed the delays because when students take longer to finish a degree, the school and its parent company bring in more tuition revenue.

Doctoral level courses at Walden can cost as much as $3,000 per academic quarter, according to the lawsuit, which also says that the university saw its revenue double over a three-year period, to $380 million in 2009. Laureate’s annual revenue is $4 billion.

The plaintiffs are seeking to compel the company and the university to give back revenue earned through “excessive” master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation coursework.

About Alissa Gulin

Alissa Gulin covers health care, education and general business at The Daily Record.