Even in the depths of the tech crash, Autodesk (ADSK) wasn't among the many that warned of earnings shortfalls or missed estimates. And its stock, trading at 47 a year ago, has suffered only a relatively mild setback and is now at 30. At the company's annual meeting with analysts in early April, CEO Carol Bartz was upbeat: The first quarter is on track, demand has stayed constant, and revenue growth will range from 10% to 20%. Autodesk surpassed estimates and earned a record $109 million, up 82%, in fiscal 2001 on sales of $1 billion--incredible in the current tech world. Jay Vleeschhouwer of Merrill Lynch has raised his rating on the stock to "accumulate" from neutral. He expects earnings of $2.20 a share in 2002 and $2.70 in 2003, vs. $1.87 in 2001.

What's Autodesk's secret? Countless architects, engineers, and others use Autodesk's software to design products, buildings, and infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, and utilities. Autodesk's business, in a way, is resistant to downturns: "Our customers tend to buy our products to improve productivity and profitability," says Bartz. Autodesk, which makes software for visual effects and 3-D animation used in creating digital pictures for films, video, and the Web, has teamed up with Microsoft to use its 3-D tools to develop prototype games for Microsoft's Xbox video-game system.

By Gene G. Marcial

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