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SAP abandons forecasts amid turmoil

30 октября 2008

SAP, the world’s largest maker of software for business, said it had abandoned July’s forecast of a 24-27 per cent annual sales jump, as economic turmoil had made the prospects for selling software so uncertain that it could no longer make a full-year prediction.

Henning Kagermann, SAP’s co-chief executive, on Tuesday said he had “never witnessed such a sharp decline in customer spending in such a short time” as in September, and said he aimed to cut costs by one tenth.

SAP said that its operating margin would hit “around 28 per cent” against an earlier forecast of nearly 29 per cent – but only if sales of ­software and related services grew 20-22 per cent this year and production costs fell as planned, according to Léo Apotheker, co-chief executive.

The Walldorf-based company three weeks ago warned that demand for its products had dropped sharply in the last 12 days of its third quarter following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

SAP said on Tuesday that the sale of software licences, a measure of future ­maintenance revenues, grew only 7 per cent to €763m in the third quarter, compared with an 11 per cent jump in the same period the year before.

Sales of software, maintenance, and online services for mid-sized companies grew 15 per cent to €1.99bn. Operating income rose 1 per cent to €614m, while net profit fell 5 per cent to €388m in annual comparison.

Fears that the credit squeeze could soon lead to a corporate software-buying freeze has caused its shares to plummet from €40 a month ago.

Shares briefly touched €20 on Tuesday, only to close unchanged around €24.50.

But results from other software companies like Microsoft have not matched SAP’s bearish tone – although its most direct and comparable rival, Oracle, will report sales in December.

Apart from a hiring freeze announced at the start of this month, Mr Kagermann said that SAP was in talks with employees “with a big pile” of holidays to see if any of them might forego their free time, accrued over years.

Mr Kagermann said he hoped fast and resolute cost cutting measures would spare the company from worse further down the line. “We have stopped hiring people, but we are not ­cutting jobs,” he said in a conference call.

SAP spent the past two years hiring thousands of developers and sales staff, many in the US and Asia, as it shifted the focus of its business from serving only big corporations to also addressing the needs of mid-sized companies.

Источник: Financial Times

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