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Education company's IPO gets warm reception

Shares in online education provider Digital Think more than double in their first day of trading, while competitors watch their stock prices fluctuate.

Shares in online education provider Digital Think more than doubled today in their first day of trading.

The San Francisco-based company's shares, which were initially priced at $14, opened today at $26, slipped to about $20 and recovered to close at $29. Volume topped 8 million shares.

Credit Suisse First Boston, Chase H&Q and Robertson Stephens were the underwriters for the 4.4 million-share IPO. Digital Think trades under the symbol "DTHK" on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The company works with large businesses to implement computer-based training programs. The courses cover database concepts, Internet literacy and the Unix programming language, among others.

Shares of companies that compete with Digital Think have fluctuated sharply in the past year.

Los Angeles-based Learning Tree International has traded between $6 and $33.87 during the past 52 weeks. The company originally delivered technology courses on CD-ROM but recently switched to an Internet format. It reported net income of $12.4 million on $189 million in sales last year.

Shares in SmartForce, a direct competitor to Digital Think, have traded as high as $47.50 and as low as $8.56 in the past year. In 1999, the company generated $198 million in sales and $15.6 million in net income.

"We think the (information technology) learning sector is very strong," said Merrill Lynch analyst Rhoda Lau.

"Both Smart Force and Learning Tree had company-specific problems that contributed to their stock-price fluctuations...We also think Digital Think is a good company," she said.