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Intuit narrows loss as small business unit grows

By Liana B. Baker

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Intuit, the maker of accounting and tax preparation software posted a narrower loss for its first quarter than a year earlier as the growth of the products it makes for small business customers helped it weather one of its seasonally slower quarters.

Intuit has built a small-business division, which helps companies process credit-card transactions, manage employee payrolls and build websites, into a $1.5 billion-a-year operation. It was larger by revenue than the company's consumer tax division last year.

Revenue in the small business unit increased 13 percent in the quarter to $384 million.

"We're posting double digit growth in small business when the economy is still in the tank," Chief Executive Brad Smith told Reuters in an interview.

That unit helped boost Intuit results in one of its seasonally weaker quarters when people are not thinking about filing their taxes yet. Intuit's most profitable products are its tax software for consumers.

But Smith said the tax season is coming up quickly and that the company has high expectations for the performance of its TurboTax software, which now attracts customers increasingly on the Internet.

"We're expecting to have a great tax season," he said, adding the products come out after November 25.

The company forecast second-quarter revenue of $1 billion to $1.02 billion and earnings per share, excluding items, in the range of 43 cents and 47 cents. Wall Street's average expectation is for 43 cents per share for the second quarter.

It posted a first-quarter net loss of $64 million, or 21 cents per share, compared to a loss of $70 million, or 22 cents per share a year earlier.

Adjusted for stock compensation and other charges, the company reported a loss of 10 cents per share, which beat Wall Street's estimates by two cents.

Intuit's revenue rose 12 percent in its first quarter to $594 million, which beat analysts' average estimates of $580.6 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Liana B. Baker, editing by Bernard Orr and Carol Bishopric)

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