SAP beats forecasts with Q4 profit rise

FRANKFURT Fri Jan 13, 2012 10:17am EST

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's SAP (SAPG.DE), the world's biggest maker of business software, reported a better than expected rise in fourth-quarter sales and profits on Friday, sending its shares up 4 percent.

Operating profits were up 10 percent at 1.78 billion euros ($2.28 billion) in the quarter, ahead of the consensus forecast of 1.65 billion euros expected by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.

The company attributed the strong performance to demand for its biggest software products and growing demand for its HANA offering -- which allows companies to analyze business data quickly -- and said it had won market share overall.

SAP's share price was up 3.8 percent at 43.02 euros by 1450 GMT, when the German market's DAX index .GDAXI was 0.7 percent lower.

"We believed that SAP would show an in-line quarter and are therefore positively surprised by the outperformance on the license side and in particular with the realtime solution HANA," DZ Bank analyst Oliver Finger said.

Expectations had also been dimmed by poor quarterly results from SAP's big rival Oracle Corp ORCL.O last month, sending shock waves across the technology sector as investors feared they may have overestimated the resilience of corporate tech spending in a deteriorating global economy.

SAP's sales of software and related services, which are key to future lucrative maintenance revenue streams, rose 12 percent from a year ago to 3.72 billion euros in the fourth quarter.

The company is due to publish full results on January 25 when it will also provide an outlook for the full year 2012.

Fourth-quarter operating profit excludes some one-off items such as acquisition-related charges of 115 million euros.

SAP last month agreed to buy SuccessFactors SFSF.N for $3.4 billion to keep up keep up with rivals in the frenzied race for cloud-computing business.

SAP had raised its sales outlook on the deal, saying its revenue could easily reach 21 billion euros by 2015, about a billion euros more than expected.

Its 2012 earnings will be diluted by the purchase, but there will be a positive impact from 2013 on.

The German company, based in Walldorf near Heidelberg, built its business on large, integrated software systems sold to many of the world's biggest companies, such as Apple (AAPL.O), GE (GE.N), McDonald's (MCD.N) and Pepsi (PEP.N).

SAP currently has some 176,000 customers and bills itself as the world's leading provider of software for managing supply chains and customer relations.

($1=0.7814 euros)

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Mike Nesbit and Greg Mahlich)

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