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Autodesk tops targets, reveals acquisition

The design and drafting software maker announces plans to buy Revit Technology, which makes software for designing and constructing buildings.

Design and drafting software maker Autodesk on Thursday beat analyst expectations for its latest quarter and announced the acquisition of a software company whose products complement Autodesk's core drafting application business.

Autodesk reported net earnings of $22 million, or 38 cents a share, for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31 of its fiscal 2002. That compares with $28 million, or 51 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.

For the full year, earnings came to $90 million, or $1.61 a share, compared with $93 million, or $1.59 a share, a year ago.

Excluding one-time charges, fourth-quarter earnings came to $37 million, or 65 cents a share. The company's earnings total $119 million, or $2.12 a share, for the full year. On that basis, analysts polled by First Call expected San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk to report earnings of 55 cents a share for the quarter and $2.02 per share for the year.

Revenue came in at $254 million for the quarter and $947 million for the year, compared with $243 million and $936 million a year ago.

When announcing earnings, the company also reported plans to acquire Revit Technology, a Waltham, Mass.-based developer of applications for designing and constructing buildings. Many of the company's programs work with Autodesk's AutoCAD drafting program. The $133 million cash transaction is subject to shareholder approval.

"The acquisition will extend our reach to new customers while expanding our existing building-industry business," Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz said in a statement.

While Autodesk's design and drafting software make it reliant on manufacturing and construction industries, which are prone to shift with larger economic trends, the company has worked to steady revenue by shifting customers to subscription plans.

CFO Steve Cakebread said in an interview that overall economic effects were essentially flat for the company, thanks to Autodesk operating in a number of product categories and geographic areas.

Business was down for the company's Discreet division and flat for its manufacturing software, he said. But building software did well, he added, as low interest rates pushed housing construction in the United States, and foreign governments launched infrastructure projects to boost their economies.

"The strength of the company is the diversity of the markets we serve," Cakebread said.

The Revit acquisition goes along with that strategy by giving Autodesk a greater presence in the end stages of the building process, including construction and management, Cakebread said. The company's latest software, Architectural Studio, puts Autodesk at the very beginning of the process.

"What's causing our growth is we're moving beyond just the desktop design category into the whole construction and design area," Cakebread said.