Woe is the tech company that reduces its forward guidance. The market judges such firms harshly, and if estimates for future periods are reduced a stock can get hammered. That's what happened to design software specialist Autodesk (Nasdaq: ADSK ) this past earnings announcement, after which the shares lost 13% of their value to plunge to barely over $30 that day. Never mind that the company is and will continue to be a leader in its segment, and that it's always grown its revenue and bottom line over time.
Too pretty for this gang
Autodesk was one of the market's big losers the day the announcement (and that scary guidance) was made. Its 13% share price tumble was among the bottom four big-name performers that day, joining other tech concerns such as Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA ) and Yelp (Nasdaq: YELP ) .
That wasn't fair; Autodesk deserves to be in much better company. Unlike Zynga, which is still effectively pasted to one big business partner (Facebook), Autodesk has a wide range of clients and excellent diversification around the globe. And, more importantly, in contrast to a young and consistently red-ink-producing beast like Yelp, Autodesk has a long and distinguished history of not only making money, but also notably improving its business as it does so.
And what big crime did Autodesk commit to end up in the cell with those rogues? It dialed down EPS estimates for the upcoming quarter to between $0.46 and $0.51 per share, in contrast with previous analyst expectations of $0.51. On an annualized basis, even if the company were to plunge to the lowest number in that range, it would still see a year-on-year improvement of 45%. This is far from a punishable offense.
This is a robust and well-managed company. It's far and away the market leader in its core niche segment of architectural design software, and its flagship product, AutoCAD, is considered the standard by which all other competing programs are measured.
Not only that, but Autodesk has also pushed assertively into the hot market for visual-effects software for film and video. Revenue from its media and entertainment product segment grew 9% year on year in 2012, nearly matching the growth level of its architectural solutions. As anyone who's seen a recent movie or TV show can attest, digital visual effects are now commonplace in every genre. This is a segment with legs, to put it mildly.
Look who's cheap now
Autodesk isn't a perfect company, of course. One area of concern is that geographical reach, which is admirably but at the moment probably a little too concentrated in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, from which it derived nearly 40% of its total sales in the most recent fiscal year. The wobbly state of the former continent makes that revenue vulnerable.
But it still looks compelling on the back of its new share-price weakness. The stock has now dipped into the lower end of its 52-week price range, matching it well against historical design software rival Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE ) , which at $31.31 is edging close to its yearly high, or maker-of-every-kind-of-software-suite Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , whose sleepy shares are hovering around the $30 level as they've seemingly done since the dawn of time.
Meanwhile, Autodesk has the two of them beat in terms of expected two-year EPS growth. It comes in at nearly 9,038%, while analysts expect just 14% for Adobe, and 13% for Tortoise Microsoft.
Autodesk's next quarterly results aren't due until late in the summer. This means there's probably plenty of time to take advantage of the buy-on-weakness opportunity the shares present. The company's stock is a fine addition to any tech-flavored portfolio, and I believe it's very likely its price level won't stay this low.
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