Schnitger Corporation

Autodesk beats for Q4, disappoints in outlook & gets a new look

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):

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.”

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.

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