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Intuit’s Smith Says Software Maker Didn’t Bring ‘A Game’

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Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Intuit Inc. Chief Executive Officer Brad Smith said the company didn’t bring its “A-game” last year and will speed up development of mobile software and undertake other initiatives to turn more online shoppers into paying customers.

Refining products such as TurboTax and QuickBooks can bring Intuit more users and translate into at least 5 percentage points of sales growth, Smith said at a meeting with financial analysts today at its headquarters in Mountain View, California.

“It was a solid year -- it was not our best year,” Smith said of fiscal 2012, which ended in July. “We did not bring our A-game.” The company affirmed its forecast that sales for the current fiscal year may grow at least 9.6 percent.

Intuit, which makes the TurboTax, Quicken and QuickBooks tax and financial-planning software, has been aiming to boost the number of repeat customers to reach Smith’s goal of adding as many as 5 million users and increasing annual revenue by $1.7 billion over three years. Intuit must rely on its own initiatives to boost sales growth because it is assuming no improvement in the economy for consumers and small businesses during fiscal 2013, Smith said.

“Things are not getting materially better for consumers and small businesses over the last four years,” he said today.

Spreading Out

Smith has been using acquisitions to move the company beyond its roots in financial-management and tax software, which account for about 70 percent of revenue. It has bought seven companies in the past three years to diversify into mobile applications, Web banking and other areas.

The company is redesigning TurboTax to appeal to users switching from storefront tax preparers, Dan Maurer, Intuit’s senior vice president, said at the analyst meeting. Its smartphone and tablet payments products also compete with offerings from Square Inc. and EBay Inc.’s PayPal unit.

Intuit is also expanding its QuickBooks Online Web software for small businesses so it’s available in 96 countries, Alex Lintner, senior vice president for Intuit’s global business, said in an interview. More than 360,000 small businesses in countries including India, Singapore, Australia and the Philippines are using the global version, he said.

Higher Outlook

Sales for the fiscal year that began Aug. 1 may rise to $4.55 billion to $4.65 billion, the company said last month. Profit may increase to $3.32 to $3.38 a share, excluding some items.

The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg is for Intuit’s sales to increase 11 percent this year to $4.59 billion, while profit is projected to rise to $3.35 a share. Revenue last year increased 10 percent to $4.15 billion.

The company is simplifying questionnaires on tax-preparation software to demand less data up front, and using plainer language to keep potential customers from dropping off before they file their returns via Intuit, Smith has said.

Intuit fell 1.3 percent to $59.36 at the close in New York. The shares have gained 13 percent this year.

To contact the reporter 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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