CAE rumbles on: ANSYS, ESI and Exa earnings recaps

May 25, 2017 | Hot Topics

Over the last few weeks, CAE companies have released earnings that highlight the growing importance of CAE technology in many companies’ product development processes, and the impact these technologies are having on the enterprises that use them. First, key highlights from each company and then some general thoughts.

ANSYS remains the biggest CAE player, and uses its size and breadth of offering to play at the highest levels in its accounts. The company reported total revenue of $254 million, an increase of 12% as reported and up 13% in constant currency (cc). License revenue was up 13% to $142 million while maintenance and services revenue was up 12% to $111 million. On a non-GAAP basis, lease revenue was up 15% to $94 million while perpetuals were up 9% to $48 million. Non-GAAP maintenance revenue was $104 million, up 11%. ANSYS reported good progress in leveraging its large portfolio of solutions in enterprise sales and cross-selling, which led to 31 customers placing orders over $1 million, including 5 customers with orders over $5 million. That’s up from 22 and one, respectively, Q1 2016. For Q2, ANSYS expects GAAP revenue to be between $254 million and $263 million and, for the year, revenue in the range of $1.029 billion to $1.057 billion.

ESI Group reported yesterday that revenue in the calendar first quarter was basically flat year over year, with revenue of €27 million. In cc and on an organic basis, revenue was down 3%. License revenue was up 3% to €20 million, even as new license revenue was 20% due to “the very challenging base effect which included exceptional growth of 43.5% in Q1 2016”.  ESI doesn’t offer guidance, and the Financial Times website today seems to be a bit befuddled, so we don’t have a forecast to share. In general, though ESI’s revenue is heavily weighted towards Q4 with the company picking up steam as the year progresses.

Finally, Exa announced results last night that show a slight overall revenue decline in Q1: Total revenue was $16.6 million, down 1% as reported but flat in cc, with license revenue of  $14 million, up 3% (up 4% cc) and project revenue of $2 million, down 22% as reported (down 21% cc). Exa’s revenue tilts heavily towards the automotive industry, and uncertainty in the US about regulatory changes to emissions and efficiency requirements dampened buying, as expected, said CEO Steve Remondi. This “temporary pause” affected both license and project revenue, as customers wait to see what develops in regs, NAFTA and other initiatives. Exa forecasts Q2 revenue in the range of $17.1 million to $18.1 million and fiscal 2018 revenue in the range of $76 million to $80 million.

So, what did we learn? That CAE is increasingly important strategically –a car or truck that doesn’t meet forthcoming regs won’t be successful and that things screech to a halt when that end-game isn’t clearly defined. But it’s also clear that diverse suppliers, like ANSYS, are better able to balance uncertainties in one market with success in another. Does this mean all CAE will consolidate? I sure hope not; some of the best innovations happen when small, hungry companies bring their ideas to the market.

Does ANSYS’ growth in Q1 come at the expense of Exa and ESI? Probably not. ANSYS has many levers to pull, while the smaller companies are more affected by a handful of deals that do or don’t happen in any time period. What’s positive across the board is that license revenue was up for all three vendors. More people using CAE means more seeing the benefit, showing off their blue to red plots, using the results to make business decisions — and CAE will continue to spiral upwards. We also need to remember that we’re in a transition phase, when many companies are hearing the rumblings about cloud and subscriptions and are considering what these technological and business changes might mean for them. It would be truly helpful if CAE companies would report number of users or licenses or tokens or keys sold, so that we could see another measure of growth besides revenue, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Every year’s first quarter is a mixed bag. It’s the end of the financial year in Japan, traditionally a big market for CAE. But it’s also the first quarter of the new fiscal year for most companies in North America and Europe, so budgets there need to get the group through a whole year. We can’t read too much into 2017, just yet. As ANSYS CEO Ajai Gopal said, “simulation is the most important solution companies have to help them address product complexity and accelerate time to market.” I think it’s going to be a good year for CAE.