SAP bullish on 2012 after record results

FRANKFURT Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:28am EST

The SAP logo is seen on a building at the SAP India labs campus in Bangalore June 24, 2009.   REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe

The SAP logo is seen on a building at the SAP India labs campus in Bangalore June 24, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Punit Paranjpe

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - SAP, the world's biggest maker of business software, was upbeat on its topline growth this year citing its investment in new technologies and robust corporate spending.

Investors have worried that they may have overestimated the resilience of corporate tech spending in a deteriorating global economy, especially after SAP's big rival Oracle Corp reported weak quarterly results last month.

But there have been increasing signs that the outlook may not be as dim as some feared. IBM Corp, the world's largest technology services company, brimmed with confidence for 2012 as it posted strong results last week.

"We have significant momentum going into 2012," SAP said on Wednesday as it published its full financial results for 2011.

The German company expects operating profit will rise to 5.05-5.25 billion euros ($6.6-$6.8 billion) at constant currencies from a 40-year record level of 4.71 billion in 2011.

SAP shares were down 0.2 percent at 44.32 euros by 1223 GMT, while the German blue-chip index was 0.7 percent lower.

SAP had already reported a better-than-expected rise in fourth-quarter sales and profit on January 13.

It 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.

"In the current environment, where growth is tough to come by, this is clearly an encouraging message," Citigroup analyst Charles Brennan said.

CHASING THE CLOUD

SAP said it expects its 2012 revenue from software and software-related services to rise by 10-12 percent in the full year from 11.35 billion euros in 2011.

As much as 2 percentage points of that increase will be contributed by SuccessFactors, which SAP last month agreed to buy for $3.4 billion to keep up with rivals in the race for cloud-computing business.

The U.S. acquisition will dampen earnings in 2012, reducing operating margin growth to about 0.10 percentage points, compared with 1.1 percentage points improvement recorded in 2011, co-Chief Executive Bill McDermott said.

Even excluding the impact of the acquisition, margin growth will slow to 0.7 percentage points.

"We think that SAP will continue to outperform into 2012," JP Morgan analysts said, citing fourth-quarter strength across regions and business divisions, resilient pricing and growing market share amid challenging conditions.

SAP, 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, GE, McDonald's and Pepsi.

Now it is also betting on its mobile and so-called in-memory databank technology, designed to make analytical software more powerful by accessing data stored locally on a chip instead of on a server, allowing it to cater to a wider variety of clients.

And it sees revenue from the cloud business at 2 billion euros by 2015.

"We are well positioned to exceed our 20 billion euros revenue target and reach a 35 percent operating margin in 2015," Chief Financial Officer Werner Brandt said.

SAP has about 183,000 customers and bills itself as the world's leading provider of software for managing supply chains and customer relations.

SAP, whose stock has gained about 10 percent over the past year, trades at about 14.5 times 12-month forward earnings, at a premium to Oracle's multiple of 11.4 and IBM at 12.7, according to ThomsonReuters StarMine data.

($1=0.7704 euros)

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Dan Lalor and Mike Nesbit)

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