SAP blamed a flawed sales model in the US for a shortfall in its first-quarter earnings, but the stock rose after the world’s biggest maker of business software by revenues issued bullish second-quarter guidance.
The German company reiterated its full-year outlook and said the US problems were localised and had been resolved. Shares closed down 1.4 per cent to €49.94.
Operating profit increased 7 per cent to €834m ($1.09bn) in the January-March quarter, compared with the same period the previous year, falling short of an €866 million estimate compiled from analysts by Bloomberg.
SAP attributed the problems to its US sales coverage model, which had combined different geographic regions with specific industry sectors, a model Bill McDermott, co-chief executive, said was “inconsistent with what we won with for 10 years. So now the strategic industries have their own specific leaders and focus – so too do the regions.”
“Rest assured these issues have swiftly been resolved and the necessary steps have been taken to ensure that North America is back on track,” he said. Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-chief executive, added that the issues had “nothing to do with a change in customer demand”.
SAP said this month that Robert Courteau, the president of its North America operations, had left the company at his own request after little more than a year in the job.
Investors, though, were more focused on the company’s outlook.
In the second quarter, SAP forecast that it would achieve software revenue growth of 15-20 per cent, and software and software-related service revenue growth of between 14 and 16 per cent, at constant currencies. The company does not usually issue quarterly guidance but did so to avoid “unnecessary concerns” and “wrong conclusions” about its strategy, Mr Snabe said.
Overall, SAP expects software and software-related services revenue to increase 10-12 per cent this year. It also expects new products in cloud computing, mobile and database computing to drive further growth this year.
In December, SAP agreed to buy SuccessFactors, a provider of cloud-based human resource management software, for $3.4bn to boost its presence in the fast-growing cloud computing sector.
This week SAP said it would spend almost $500m to help drive growth of its HANA in-memory product, which helps customers quickly analyse large quantities of data. It is due to publish detailed figures on April 25.
Software revenues – a key measure of future business performance because of the opportunity to sell related services – increased 4 per cent to €637m in the first quarter. That was slower than fourth-quarter growth, where these software revenues had increased 16 per cent year-on-year.
The figures are on a preliminary basis and are in accordance with international financial reporting standards.
SAP said some European markets had started more slowly in 2012, compared with a strong fourth quarter, but overall Europe remained well on track. Management said Germany had enjoyed “superb” sales growth but in contrast the UK and France were slower.
“Where we saw slowness we made some leadership changes there too,” Mr McDermott, said. “I remain extremely confident in Europe. . . I don’t see the sovereign debt crisis being a risk to our European business.”