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Profit down, layoffs ahead for Autodesk

The lumbering economy stings the software maker, which says it will cut 7 percent of its work force after reporting significantly lower second-quarter earnings and sales.

Software maker Autodesk continued to feel the sting of a lumbering economy Thursday, reporting second-quarter earnings and sales down significantly from a year ago and announcing it would lay off 7 percent of its work force.

Earnings for the quarter, which ended July 31, totaled $12 million, or 10 cents a share, compared with $19 million, or 17 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Total revenue was $211 million, compared with $231 million last year.

Excluding restructuring costs and other charges, earnings were $15 million, or 13 cents a share. On that basis, brokers polled by research firm First Call had expected earnings of 11 cents a share.

Autodesk, whose main products include software for architectural drafting, industrial design and 3D animation, has felt a belated hit this year from the sluggish economy. CEO Carol Bartz recently imposed pay cuts for herself and other top executives and froze wages for other workers.

Bartz said in an interview following the earnings announcement that with no significant economic boost expected the rest of this year, it became clear the company would have to cut jobs to trim costs. The company will lay off 7 percent of its workforce--which currently totals around 3,600--over the next two quarters.

"In the last 60 days, the economic news has gotten worse," she said. "We just wanted to be in a position to ride this out."

Bartz said Autodesk had fared better than many other software makers because of its presence in multiple industries, but the overall economy and, particularly, a worldwide slump in major construction projects were catching up with the company.

"We sell a lot to small and medium business," she said. "That's why we held up longer than most software companies last year."

Autodesk has tried to buck the downturn by introducing products targetingnew business segments and pushing more customers to subscription plans. Bartz said the company would continue directing its efforts, including small-scale acquisitions, to moving into these segments.

"One of the most important things is to keep a strong product cycle," she said. "Companies with strong product cycles exit a slump better, because a lot of the competition goes by the wayside. You need to keep your engineers busy."

The company expects revenue for the next quarter to be flat to down slightly, at $200 million to $210 million. Pro-forma earnings are expected to drop to between 5 cents and 10 cents a share. For the fiscal year, revenue is projected at $860 million to $900 million and earnings at 50 cents to 70 cents per share.