SAP looks to reduce $1.3bn Oracle fine

German software group makes €933m provision

SAPsaid it would file a motion to a US court asking to reduce the $1.3bn in damages it has been forced to pay to arch-rival Oracle over copyright infringements.

SAP full-year results
SalesNet profitEarnings per shareDividend
€4.05bn€437m€0.37€0.60
↑27%↓36%↓36%↑20%

The damages awarded last November have triggered a sharp drop in profit at the world’s largest business software maker by sales in the fourth quarter, as it was forced to lift its provisions for the case by €933m ($1.27bn).

Operating profit under international accounting standards dropped by almost half year-on-year to €543m in last three months, SAP said on Wednesday..

Oracle last year successfully sued its German rival over the illegal downloading of software by SAP’s former US subsidiary.

The arch-rivals are engaged in one of the fiercest corporate competitions in the software industry and have repeatedly locked horns.

Bill Mc Dermott, SAP’s co-chief executive, said: “We absolutely don’t agree with the $1.3bn [fine].”

“Depending on the outcome of the post-trial motion process, SAP may consider an appeal,” Europe’s largest software maker said. It added that the continuing dispute over the amount of damages could trigger another change in provisions.

“From a shareholder’s perspective, it can only get better,” Mr McDermott said.

The group on Wednesday unveiled a target to grow revenues by between 10 and 14 per cent this year, as it hopes that new products such as mobile solutions will accelerate its business.

Mr McDermott told the FT that the product offensive could within the next five to seven years catapult SAP’s sales to €20bn from €12.5bn last year and expand its operating margin by 4.5 percentage points to 35 per cent. “This is our ambition,” he said.

Thomas Otter, analyst at Gartner, conceded that SAP had for the first time in a while a genuine new product opportunity. “The true judge of innovation, though, is not whether vendors label products innovative, but how customers do,” he added.

Mr McDermott dismissed talk that SAP was a strong bid target for either a US competitor or an Asian sovereign wealth fund.

He said SAP was better run as an independent company and pointed out that since he and Mr Snabe took over, the company’s valuation had increased by $10bn making it less attractive as a target.

Mr McDermott and his co-chief executive, Jim Hagemann Snabe, took SAP’s helm almost a year ago, after the group had been rattled by a drop in customer and employee confidence as well as falling sales.

They have since improved morale within the group, increased the speed and customer involvement in software development and broadened the group’s technological range with the $5.8bn takeover of mobile software specialist Sybase.

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