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Autodesk trims its work force

The software maker will lay off between 550 and 650 employees, more than 15 percent of its work force, as part of an ongoing cost-cutting effort.

Drafting and design software maker Autodesk announced that it will trim its work force by more than 15 percent in a move the company characterized as part of an ongoing cost-cutting program.

The San Rafael, Calif.-based company said Tuesday that it will lay off between 550 and 650 employees over the next two quarters. The company tallied a total work force of 3,537 for its most recent quarter.

Al Castino, Autodesk's chief financial officer, said the layoffs were part of ongoing efficiency drive. "We have invested a great deal of time benchmarking all of our processes and functions," Castino said in a statement. "We have identified a number of areas which we can and will improve. Some can be improved quickly, and others will need concerted effort over the course of the next fiscal year and, in some cases, even beyond."

Autodesk has suffered the past few years, as the global economic downturn hit key customer segments such as the construction industry particularly hard. The company, best known for its AutoCAD line of drafting software, went through several rounds of layoffs in 2002 and imposed other cost-cutting measures.

The company posted solid gains in revenue and profit during its last few quarters. Last week, it reported earnings for its third fiscal quarter, which ended Oct. 31, of $22.6 million, or 20 cents a share, compared with a loss of $3.9 million, or 3 cents a share, a year ago. Castino said then that the company expected to lay off workers and close facilities over the next year to boost its operating margin.

Autodesk said it will take a $37 million restructuring charge over the next four quarters due to the layoffs. As a result, the company reduced its earnings estimates for the next two quarters. Net income for the current fourth quarter is expected to be between 24 cents and 30 cents a share, compared with previous estimates of 27 cents to 32 cents a share. Net income for the first quarter of fiscal 2005 is now expected to be between 4 cents and 10 cents a share, down from previous estimates of 27 cents to 32 cents a share.