Australian Careers Network Ltd sinks into administration

Australian Careers Network Ltd (ASX: ACO) has ended its short stint as a listed company on the ASX, after appointing administrators today.

The vocational education company listed on the ASX in December 2014, but shares were suspended in October last year after it received non-compliance notices from regulators, including the Department of Education.

Australian Careers Network had 14 different education companies under its wing, but fell afoul of regulators in July 2015, after the Victorian Higher Education and Skills Group (HESG) suspended funding to subsidiary Consider This Training (CTT) and terminated the contract. HESG also suspended payments related to a diabetes certificate course offered by another of Australian Careers’ subsidiaries, the Australian Management Academy (AMA).

Then in October, The company received further notice from the HESG that all payments outstanding for three other subsidiary training organisations were suspended pending a regulatory review. Following a court case, the payments were reinstated, but then another of Australian Careers Network’s training organisations – Phoenix – fell afoul of the regulators and in November was asked why it should not cancel its registration as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).

The ACCC, NSW Fair Trading and the Department of Education and Training then commenced legal proceedings against Phoenix and CTI – yet another of the company’s subsidiaries, for making false or misleading representations and engaged in unconscionable conduct. You can read the ACCC’s allegations here.

Earlier this month Phoenix lost its case against the government, and the $40 million in funding the government would have paid to it under the VET FEE-HELP scheme. That essentially meant Australian Careers Network could not continue as going concern, and the board had no option but to place the company into voluntary administration.

It also raises serious questions about the potential impact of the rolling reforms introduced earlier last year to stop rogue training providers on the vocation training sector. Vocation Ltd (ASX: VET) had already appointed administrators in November 2015.

Other providers in the sector include Site Group International Ltd (ASX: SIT), Navitas Limited (ASX: NVT) and Intueri Education Group Ltd (ASX: IQE)  — all of which could see changes to the government funding they receive. In 2014, an estimated 75% of the $1.3 billion paid out under the VET FEE-HELP scheme went to the private sector.

Foolish takeaway

Existing shareholders of Australian Careers Network are unlikely to receive any return on their shares, with virtually no tangible assets left in the company once liabilities have been taken into account.

The failure of Australian Career Network is another warning to investors considering buying shares in companies highly dependent on government-sourced revenues.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn't own shares in any companies mentioned. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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