NewsLots of big news from Autodesk in the last 24 hours, including Q4 results, guidance for the new fiscal year, and a branding makeover. Q4 was better than expected on many fronts, but cautious guidance for 2013 caused the share price to drop 5-ish% this morning before leveling off somewhat. We’ll get to the brand new look in a moment.

For Q4, which ended January 31, Autodesk reported total revenue of $607 million, up 2% from a year ago, handily bearing analyst consensus of $586 million. CEO Carl Bass said that “[w]e are pleased with our stronger than expected fourth quarter results. While the global economic picture remains mixed, we ended the year strong, driven by increasing demand for our design and creation suites, record revenue in our AEC and manufacturing business segments, and strong large deal volume.”

Some of the earnings details (look here for more):

  • Total Q4 revenue was up 2% to $607 million. This includes roughly $24 million in revenue resulting from a promotion that was run in advance of an increase in upgrade pricing. In essence, CFO Mark Hawkins said, this pulled revenue out of Q1 2014 and into 2013 in a planned move, one that Autodesk has used often in the past. Yes, much of this $24 million was in the company’s Q4 guidance so this isn’t a fiddle to beat expectations.
  • Parsing by geo, revenue from the Americas was down 2% y/y to $221 million, with a good performance in Canada not able to offset declines in the U.S. and Latin America. Mr. Bass did hint at improved conditions in the Americas, as large deal activity was strong at the end of Q4.
  • Revenue from EMEA increased 2% to $238 million but up 7% in constant currencies, led by strong large deal activity in Northern Europe and a solid performance in Central Europe.
  • Asia Pacific was the standout in Q4, as revenue grew 11% to a record $148 million. Mr.Bass said that strong though unexpected growth in Japan and China led APAC’s results. [Strong is used much too often in earnings results, isn’t it? –Ed.]
  • Outside of China, however, results from the emerging economies were mixed, contributing 11% less than a year ago or $84 million and representing 14% of total revenue in Q4 (down from 16% in recent quarters). Mr. Bass said that some of this decline was economic but that some was due to leadership changes in India and Brazil.
  • By business line, revenue from the Platform Solutions and Emerging Business segment fell 7% y/y, to $198 million.
  • Revenue from the AEC segment was up 18% y/y, to a record $207 million driven by large deal activity around the world and sales of AEC Suites, especially for infrastructure projects and the construction industry.
  • Revenue from the manufacturing business segment grew 5% y/y to $155 million.
  • Revenue from the company’s Media and Entertainment business segment fell 16% from a year ago to $47 million.
  • Mr. Bass spoke several times about the Suites business, saying that revenue from Suites was 30% of total revenue in Q4, up from 23% just 2 years ago. He also said that Suites represent a “meaningful increase” in ASPs that helped drive growth in the AEC and Manufacturing businesses.
  • The cloud offerings came up often, but still no mention of revenue contribution. Some of the factoids: 10,000 PLM 360 users and “dozens” of pilots and early deployments. More than 30,000 simulation jobs run using Simulation 360. More than 1 million jobs renderings completed in Q4, bringing the total to more than 2 million. 11 million downloads of AutoCAD WS, with more than 2 million unique users per month.
  • The push towards new ways of interacting with Autodesk solutions continues, as over 50 million Autodesk-branded apps have been downloaded from Apple’s iTunes store. It’s unclear how much these apps contribute to revenue or profit, but Mr. Bass did say that “bookings growth from advertisements in FY ’13 grew more than 3x year-over-year.” (Remember the concerns when Autodesk acquired Socialcam?)
  • Autodesk doesn’t often talk about large deals, but did yesterday. Mr. Bass said that Q4 saw 45 transactions over $1 million, up over 25% from a year ago. For the full year, large deal activity was up by 18%. Mr. Bass made a point of saying that channel partners were involved in many of these large transactions — good news for partners who have been concerned about  Autodesk’s direct sales efforts.
  • Speaking of direct versus indirect sales, Mr. Bass told one analyst asking about subscription software offerings: “I believe that the channel plays an important and vital role. If you look at companies that have subscription-based, cloud-based business models, what I see increasingly is greater reliance on a third-party channel. Even ones who started out all direct are recognizing that the benefits of the channel in terms of reach and service are the same, whether you deliver the software by a box or by the Internet. It really makes very little difference. Our resellers get paid on subscription as they do on new licenses. So I continue imagining a world in which resellers play an important role. That said, we’re going to continue investing in our direct accounts as long as it continues to make sense and opens up new business for both us and our partners.” Mr. Bass later amplified this to say that Autodesk is hiring direct sales resources in some countries and to sell specific offerings like PLM, simulation and into the construction industry — newer areas in Autodesk’s potfolio where “it could really help”.
  • One of the analysts on the call asked about Autodesk’s acquisition history, pointing out that the company spent something like $260 million on acquisitions over the first three quarters of fiscal 2013, companies that will contribute to revenue in fiscal 2014. Mr. Bass seemed to hint that 1% of the forecasted growth for 2014 would come from recent acquisitions.

But Autodesk’s overall guidance for Q1 and full year 2013 disappointed many. For the current quarter, Autodesk expects revenue between $570 million and $590 million, far below an analyst consensus of $591 million. Mr. Bass cited the “unevenness of the global environment” for his near-term caution, though he sees an improving environment, especially in construction and manufacturing, later in the year leading to an overall revenue growth of about 6% for fiscal 2014.

Mr. Bass was not shy about blaming Washington’s politicians for many of these economic uncertainties. Some gems: “The optimism I hear from our customers is tempered somewhat by the stupidity I see from our politicians.” “We don’t know what the heck to make out of the sequester.” “On the news this morning, the nonsense that’s going on in Washington.” And my favorite: “I have two teenage sons and I expect them to act like knuckleheads. I don’t expect members of Congress to act like knuckleheads, but they’re acting more like my teenage boys than they should.”

OK. Enough of that. Earlier today Autodesk unveiled a new look at the TED conference in Long Beach, CA. Chris Bradshaw, Autodesk’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, wrote in a blog post:

“The new Autodesk is not just a surface change, but a reflection of how we are evolving our business. For the past 30 years, Autodesk has played a pivotal role in the design and creation of things … The visual change [in the logo] is the most significant branding update in the company’s 30 year history, but since 1982, we’ve made subtle changes to things like color and imagery, eventually moving from the original calipers icon (a tool used to measure the distance between two opposite sides of an object) to the use of the Autodesk name. Our new visual identity includes a logomark with the Autodesk name for the first time in more than a decade.”

According to Mr. Bradshaw, the design is inspired by origami and “shows the convergence of art and science, form and function, aptly representing the Autodesk software portfolio.”

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 2.19.19 PM

I’m sure Wall Street analysts are gnashing their teeth over what this rebranding will cost (new business cards for how many people??) but I like it. Clean and modern.

It’s unclear how new logos affect sales — if at all. Mr. Bass’ comments echoed what we’ve heard elsewhere: the world is holding its breath while the US plays “chicken“, there are pockets of stability and growth in construction and manufacturing and there’s ample opportunity for engineering software out there.