, one of the hottest technology stocks over the past two years, Wednesday offered investors a couple of compelling reasons to stick with the stock.
The maker of computer-aided design (CAD) software revised its earnings guidance well above analysts' expectations. Autodesk says 2006 revenue will rise as high as $1.47 billion and EPS as high as $1.15. Analysts had been expecting revenue of $1.39 billion and earnings of $1.09 a share.
It was the second time in two months that the company had raised guidance. In February, when Autodesk reported its fourth quarter, it also boosted its estimates above the analyst consensus.
Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said in a Wednesday note that the raised guidance suggests that Autodesk's growth is coming from new licenses to older products such as AutoCAD and Inventor. "This is a change from our previous thinking, which was that the growth of Autodesk would be primarily driven by the company pushing upgrades to its installed base," he said.
CEO Carol Bartz said that 2005 has gotten off to a rousing start because of rising global demand for its products, which it's expanded with what she termed "the strongest portfolio of products in our 23-year history."
Autodesk held its investor day on Wednesday, allowing Bartz to sketch out in broad strokes why her company remains one of the few software companies to be thriving enough to repeatedly boost guidance. In short, Bartz told investors, companies are waking up to a huge crisis in the form of globalization and Autodesk is there to help them cope.
In recent years, Autodesk has transformed itself from a company whose CAD software was sought out by design-oriented companies like architecture firms to a seller of software aimed at helping companies in a broad variety of industries create and deliver their goods more efficiently.
"Whether it's people building infrastructure, or building a building, or mechanical infrastructure, they all face the same issues of productivity," Bartz said at the investor day. "It's the same thing in media and entertainment. It's amazing how all these worlds are coming together."
It's not so much that Autodesk has changed, but that it's landed in a position to benefit from a changing world, she said. "Our customers are facing a crisis -- a crisis of globalization," Bartz said. "In the '90s, companies wanted to focus on how to manage information. Remember that? Everyone wanted to know about customers and how to manage information about them. Not much changed on how products came to market."
But as countries like China, India and Brazil began to emerge as economic powerhouses, they were able to produce goods and a fraction of the costs of U.S. companies. "Now it's very different: Only the most efficient and most productive companies can compete," said Bartz. "The crisis of getting products into the marketplace, getting buildings up is at a point as critical as Y2K was in data processing. If companies can't get efficient, they won't be a global player."
Autodesk needs some new incentives to rev its stock higher. After steadily gaining from $7.37 in July 2003 to $33.32 last November, the stock has hovered around the $30 level. If Bartz is right that companies are desperate for software that can inject efficiency and that Autodesk's customers are reporting that they are seeing large boosts in productivity within six months of using Autodesk's wares, then the company's revenues and profit growth could give the stock a jumpstart.