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SAP Caps Strong 2012 With Modest Q4

SAP meets resistance in the Americas and falls behind Oracle on software sales growth.
SAP's fiscal year 2012 came in like a lion and out like a lamb. That's the assessment that emerged Tuesday as SAP reported preliminary fourth-quarter results that fell just short of expectations.

SAP software revenue on the quarter was 1.94 billion Euros ($2.59 billion), up 9% (8% in constant currencies) from 1.78 billion Euros ($2.37 billion) in Q4 2011. Software and software-related service (SSRS) revenue was 4.23 billion Euros ($5.64 billion), up 14% from the same quarter in 2011. The performance fell slightly short of Wall Street expectations of 1.96 billion Euros ($2.61 billion) in software revenue and 4.33 billion Euros ($5.78 billion) in SSRS revenue.

SAP's shares slid 4.5% on the news, in part because Oracle recently reported a 17% jump in quarterly software revenue.

"Especially after their main competitor Oracle managed to beat estimates last month, many had hoped that SAP would follow suit," equity analyst Markus Huber of ETX Capital told Reuters.

SAP's shortfall could be pinned on the Americas region, where software revenue grew just 3%, versus 8% in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and 23% in the Asia-Pacific and Japan region. SAP has suffered management turnover in North America, where Geraldine McBride recently resigned after serving for less than a year as president of the region. What's more, McBride's predecessor, Robert Courteau, left the company in 2012 after 15 months in the job.

[ Want more on SAP's Hana plans? Read SAP Sweetens Hana Deal With Free Sybase Database. ]

Commenting on the most recent departure on January 8, SAP said in a statement that McBride resigned for personal reasons and that the move was unrelated to performance. The entire Americas region will now be led by Rodolpho Cardenuto, who previously oversaw the Latin America and Caribbean regions.

Despite the tepid fourth-quarter results, SAP racked up a strong year overall with a 13% increase in SSRS revenue, more than 16 billion Euros ($21 billion) in total revenue, triple-digit growth in Hana in-memory database revenue to 390 million Euros ($520 million), and cloud-services growth that has put cloud revenue on a 850 million Euro ($1.13 billion) annual run rate.

"We achieved a breakthrough in the cloud, and today SAP is the second-largest cloud player in the world," SAP said in a statement attributed to co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe. "We [also] overachieved on our SAP Hana revenue ambition, making SAP the fastest-growing next-generation database company in the market."

SAP will release its complete 2012 results along with 2013 guidance on January 23.