Adobe Shares Rise as Sales Forecast Tops Analysts’ Estimates

Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE) rose the most in more than three months after its first-quarter sales forecast beat some estimates, boosted by demand for tools that design Web pages and create online video.

Revenue in the quarter that ends March 3 will be $1.03 billion to $1.08 billion, the company said in a statement. Analysts had projected $1.06 billion on average, with estimates ranging as low as $1.02 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Excluding certain items, profit will be 54 cents to 59 cents a share, compared with an average 58-cent estimate.

Adobe, the largest maker of graphic-design software, reduced its sales outlook last month and said it will cut 750 jobs and stop making Flash software for mobile devices. The company is retooling its product line to better support the HTML5 Web-programming language, which has backing from companies such as Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. It also aims to get more revenue from online subscriptions.

“Adobe remains the premier company in terms of share, breadth of products and brand name” in the graphic-design software market, said Jay Vleeschhouwer, an analyst at Griffin Securities Inc. in New York. “It was a mistake to think Adobe would somehow not be right in the middle of participating in the HTML5 phenomenon.”

Vleeschhouwer has a “buy” rating on the shares and doesn’t own them.

Adobe advanced 6.6 percent to $28.20 at the close in New York, marking the biggest intraday gain since Sept. 7. That trimmed the stock’s decline in 2011 to 8.4 percent.

Creative Suite

The San Jose, California-based company is releasing a new version of its flagship print- and Web-design software, Creative Suite 6, next year. The suite -- plus individual sales of its programs, such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Illustrator -- supplies more than half of Adobe’s sales. Adobe will focus on tools that help customers work with HTML5 to design Web pages and produce online video.

For the fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 2, sales increased 14 percent to $1.15 billion, compared with analysts’ average $1.09 billion estimate. Profit excluding some costs was 67 cents a share, compared with analysts’ 60-cent estimate. Net income fell 35 percent to $173.7 million, reflecting the cost of job cuts in the quarter.

One-third of Adobe’s design-software revenue will come from online subscriptions in three years, Chief Financial Officer Mark Garrett said in an interview. That’s up from almost none now. The company’s advertising-software business may reach three-quarters of a billion dollars this fiscal year and will grow at about 25 percent annually, he said.

Billion Dollars

“This will be a billion-dollar business by itself,” he said. “We’re working hard to take a very fragmented market and pull it together.”

Chief Executive Officer Shantanu Narayen said the company’s design software business benefited from sales to large customers through traditional channels as well as individuals and smaller businesses through Adobe’s website.

“We had a healthy pipeline and the team executed,” he said on a conference call yesterday.

Sales in the current fiscal year will increase 4 percent to 6 percent, Adobe said last month. At the time, analysts on average had estimated a revenue gain of 9 percent.

“A lot of the guidance takedown was due to the business model change,” said Ross MacMillan, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York. “What’s maybe more surprising is the strength of the underlying business in Q4,” said MacMillan, who has a “buy” rating on the shares.

Internet Delivery

The company is overhauling the way it sells Creative Suite to spur more frequent purchases of programs like Photoshop and Dreamweaver. As more customers seek to buy and use software over the Internet, Adobe plans to release a software package called Creative Cloud in the fiscal second quarter, Garrett said on yesterday’s call.

Perhaps 15 percent of Creative Suite customers may buy cloud-computing versions of the software, said Walter Pritchard, a San Francisco-based analyst at Citigroup Inc.

Adobe plans to introduce more tablet-computer software and subscription pricing plans starting at $50 a month, designed to attract new customers. It will also stop developing the Flash Player for mobile devices and instead emphasize the Air software, which will work with online application stores.

As more users create content using Apple’s iPad, Adobe is planning to make its entire set of creative tools available on Apple’s App Store, Narayen said on CNBC today.

Recent acquisitions aim to expand Adobe’s Web publishing and advertising prowess as well. Last month, it said it would acquire online advertising company Efficient Frontier, which sells software that lets advertisers buy keywords on Google and place ads on Facebook. Adobe bought video advertising company Auditude Inc. on Nov. 1.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Ricadela in San Francisco at aricadela@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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