Autodesk engineers fourth-quarter profit as cost cutting helps offset drop in software sales

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Autodesk draws up 4Q profit, tops analyst views

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — Autodesk Inc. engineered a fourth-quarter profit that exceeded analyst estimates as cost cutting helped overcome a drop in sales of its architectural and entertainment software.

The company said Tuesday that it earned $50.1 million, or 21 cents per share, for the three months ended in January. That contrasted with a loss of $105.3 million, or 47 cents per share, at the same time in the prior year.

If not for certain one-time costs, Autodesk said it would have made 30 cents per share. On that basis, the company exceeded the average earnings estimate of 23 cents per share among analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue for the period fell 7 percent to $456 million. That also topped analysts’ average forecast of $432 million in revenue.

Autodesk shares surged $1.36, or more than 5 percent, in extended trading after ending Tuesday’s regular session at $25.66, down 42 cents.

In a key measure of a software maker’s health, Autodesk’s sales of new licenses decreased 13 percent to $270 million in the fourth quarter. This benchmark is closely watched because software sales generate future profits from product maintenance and upgrades.

With its revenue sagging, Autodesk eliminated more than 1,000 jobs during 2009 as part of an overhaul that lowered its annual operating expenses by more than $250 million. In the fourth quarter, Autodesk’s operating expenses fell by 38 percent overall.

For the full year, Autodesk earned $58 million, or 25 cents per share, on revenue of $1.7 billion. That was down from income of $183.6 million, or 80 cents per share, on revenue of $2.3 billion in the previous year.

Autodesk expects its current quarter ending in April to be similar to the past quarter. Excluding certain items, management predicted Autodesk’s earnings per share will range from 18 cents to 23 cents with revenue coming in between $420 million and $440 million.

Analysts, on average, have projected earnings of 20 cents per share on revenue of about $430 million.

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