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Thursday, February 27, 1997 < Prev Next >

Visio Chief Charting Rapid Growth, Looking At Overseas Expansion

Jeremy Jaech has one of those challenges that chief executives love: deciding how to keep growing quickly.

Visio, a young public company that makes software for technical diagrams, drawings and charts, said today that it is acquiring parts of Boomerang Technology, a California company, for $6.7 million.

At Visio's annual meeting yesterday, Jaech said the next steps for the Seattle-based maker of computer drawing and diagramming software are to expand its efforts in overseas markets, roll out upgraded versions of products and continue product development for more sophisticated customers.

Shareholders will be watching closely to see whether Jaech's plan can keep Visio moving, earning its billing from some local analysts as one of the hottest growth stocks in the region.

"It's very straightforward," said Bob Toomey, an analyst with Piper Jaffray who rates Visio a strong buy. "They just have a great product taking market share."

Since going public in November 1995, Visio has posted five consecutive quarters of increasing sales.

In its most recent quarter, Visio posted sales of $19 million, up 42 percent from a year earlier, and profit of $4.4 million, up 111 percent. Total sales for 1996 were nearly $60 million. Its shares, which came public at $22 a share, were down 50 cents at $42.75 in late trading today.

Jaech told shareholders that the biggest immediate challenges include furthering sales in Europe and Asia. Last quarter, the company reported international sales of $8 million, roughly 42 percent of total sales.

Visio, founded in 1990, is hoping to follow the pattern of word processing and spreadsheet programs, which automated the tasks of writing and handling data.

"The kind of drawings you see on white boards (in offices), that's what we're about," said Jaech, a veteran of Aldus, the Seattle-based desktop-publishing pioneer that was sold to Adobe.

Toomey estimates that the market could eventually be worth $9 billion. The company faces a handful of competitors, but none that have outperformed Visio, Toomey said.

Software powerhouses such as Microsoft have not aggressively developed a product of their own to compete with Visio.

"They have other fish to fry," Toomey said.

The Seattle Times

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