Nemetschek, the German provider of AEC tools including the Allplan and Graphisoft brands, published final results for 2011 that were in line with earlier figures. As anticipated, revenue grew 10% in 2011 to €164 million. Growth and profitability were driven by company’s largest business, the Design segment (revenue €164 million, up 9%) as strength in the German construction industry, especially in Q4, led to increased demand for design tools. The Build segment (revenue €14 million, up 2%), on the other hand, saw growth stall as economic uncertainty led to the postponing of construction projects. Nemetschek is confident that many of the projects that would have gone to its Build business will ultimately be resurrected and are not cancelled. The Manage segment (revenue €4 million, up 3%) was reorganized last year, and anticipates a return to stronger growth in 2012. The company’s fastest growing unit, Multimedia (revenue €14 million, up 25%), saw a lot of new business wins as well as increased revenue from existing customers.

Of interest to the investors on the earnings call, Nemetschek will propose an increase in the dividend from €1.00 to €1.15 at its annual meeting in May. “In view of the good results for 2011, we want to enable shareholders to share in this success,” said CEO Tim Alexander Lüdke. Nemetschek says that it intends to continue to pay out 25% to 30% of its operating cash flow as a regular dividend to shareholders — a typical move in Europe, but unusual for technology companies in the US.

Construction industry forecasts show that the economies of Europe are expected to increase their investment in the building sector very slightly in 2012, accelerating in 2013; other regions are expected to grow in the very low single digits in 2012 except emerging markets, which continue their rapid pace. Nemetschek highlights growth of 8% in Brazil and 10% in China in 2012. All of this leads Nemetschek to forecast a revenue increase of 10% for 2012, to €180 million.

Mr. Lüdke said that he was optimistic about 2012, citing potential in Asia and Brazil, and that Nemetschek typically outgrows the experts’ forecasts for the construction industry as a whole. The company does not given brand-specific data, but did say that Graphisoft is growing in the Americas and Asia, while Allplan is more focused on the German-speaking markets and so is growing more slowly. All brands have shown growth so far in 2012.

Mr. Lüdke has been Nemetschek’s CEO only since November but has an impressive command of the company’s products and customers, and seems to understand the regional differences in how large AEC projects are carried out — small architecture firms in some parts of the world; giant end-to-end EPCs in others. Investors on the conference call seemed most worried about his plans for expansion, which has Nemetschek opening new offices in rapidly growing countries like Brazil and South Asia. This is where the dividend comes into play — and may not be such a good thing — since it creates conflict between growing the business, which may harm cash flow in the short term and lower the dividend. It will be interesting to see how 2012 shapes up at Nemetschek.