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Stratasys Tops Q4 EPS Target, Aims To Lead 3D Printer Field

Stratasys (SSYS) shares rebounded Monday as the 3D printer maker topped fourth-quarter estimates and executives spoke confidently about the future.

Earnings grew 33% vs. a year earlier to 40 cents a share minus special items, beating views by 2 cents. Revenue rose 23% to $96.4 million, including for the first time its recent Objet takeover.

Stratasys announced its $1.4 billion deal last April for Israeli-based Objet. Objet CEO David Reis became Stratasys CEO when the deal closed in December. Ex-Stratasys CEO and co-founder Scott Crump is chairman.

Stratasys projects 2013 sales at $430 million to $445 million, up 20%-24%. It sees EPS of $1.80 to $1.95, in line with estimates.

Stratasys shares rose 7% to 68.82 after hitting 72.69 early. 3D Systems (DDD), its main rival, lost 3% in the stock market Monday.

3D Systems last week reported higher Q4 sales of $101.6 million. But it missed forecasts while Stratasys beat.

"We have every intention to lead this market," Reis told IBD after the earnings release. "We entered the year with a very good feeling.

3D printers, though a 25-year-old technology, are in the early stages of widespread industry acceptance. They use liquids or powders to create products in a layer-by-layer printing process. The aerospace, automotive, medical, consumer and other fields are using the technology for prototypes and specialty parts.

3D printers can cost a few hundred dollars for simple consumer devices to over $1 million for factory use. About 50,000 have shipped worldwide since the end of 2011, Stratasys said. Through 2012 Stratasys said it has sold 29,000 3D printers, including Objet and other acquisitions.

Reis said the widespread use of computer-automated design software for 3D products is a sign of industry growth. There are about 5 million 3D CAD software seats and about 40 million CAD installations in total.

"The conversion from 2D CAD to 3D CAD is relatively fast," Reis said. And there are a growing number of Web-based services that enable the design and production of 3D-printed products.

Stratasys and 3D Systems have been battered in recent months by criticism on investor websites. The reports have mainly targeted 3D Systems but Stratasys has been caught in the fallout. That's also true of ExOne (XONE), which debuted Feb. 17 after a successful IPO. The metals-based 3D printer rose 3% Monday.

Troy Jensen, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said Stratasys' "respectable" Q4 report pointed to strong and growing demand for the "underpenetrated market.

"The only skepticism about this industry is on the consumer side," he said. "There has never been any doubt about corporate and commercial use."