Software maker Intuit lowers bar on 2017 earnings expectations, reaffirms other guidance

Intuit shares tumbled Thursday when the TurboTax software maker cooled expectations for fiscal 2017 about a month after executives told analysts they saw a path to achieving $5 per share that year.

The Mountain View, California, company said Thursday ahead of its annual meeting with investors that it now forecasts adjusted fiscal 2017 earnings to range between $4 and $4.50 per share.

Analysts expect, on average, earnings of $4.61 per share, according to FactSet.

Intuit started fiscal 2016 in August. The software developer's leaders said then that the company can track toward earning $5 per share in 2017 with accelerating revenue growth and disciplined spending.

"We see a path to achieving a $5 EPS goal in 2017, but our first commitment is continuing to invest in growth," CEO Brad Smith said during a conference call. "We'll talk about whether or not that becomes our target in fiscal year 2017 when we actually set expectations at the end of next year."

Smith said Thursday in a statement from Intuit that the company was making "the right trade-offs to grow small business customers and revenue double-digits over the next few years."

"I've never had greater confidence as we build this company for long-term success," he said.

But the company's fiscal 2017 forecast is at odds with the statement from August, Citi analyst Walter Pritchard said in a research note.

"This path (to $5) would appear difficult given new guidance," the analyst wrote.

Intuit also reaffirmed on Thursday its fiscal 2016 forecast for adjusted earnings of $3.40 to $3.45 per share on revenue ranging from $4.53 billion to $4.6 billion. It also reiterated a fiscal 2016, first-quarter forecast for an adjusted loss of 3 cents to 4 cents per share.

Shares of Intuit Inc. fell 3.2 percent, or $2.85, to $86.62 Thursday midday, while broader indexes remained largely flat ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision on whether to raise interest rates, which was expected later in the day.

The stock had fallen about 3 percent so far this year, as of Wednesday's close.