Amid bad news, SAP remains upbeat about finances

Despite the gloomy pall over the economy as a whole and the IT industry in particular, SAP AG claims to be chugging along at a healthy pace.

On Thursday, the business applications vendor announced that despite the recent terrorist attacks, it believes it will make its margin and revenue goals for the first nine months of this year, as predicted.

In its statement, the company said as yet it sees "no reason for changing its earlier guidance for the full year 2001." The company has stated it believes that the first three quarters of the year will show 23 percent revenue growth.

Just as other vendors such as Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft Inc. have found, tough economic times seem to suit SAP's bottom line. In July, SAP announced second-quarter net income of US$179.8 million on 24 percent revenue growth. At the time, SAP also claimed it would increase revenue more than 20 percent for all of 2001.

However, SAP this week also admitted that the impact of the attacks on fourth-quarter revenue would be "difficult to assess."

Analysts have varied opinions on how the attack fallout will affect the business applications market.

"I think that it [the terrorist attack] will impact all enterprise resource planning [ERP] vendors, although I think the degree depends on the overall impact of last week on global economics," said Karen Peterson, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based consultancy Gartner Inc.

"I think there's a chance we'll see some problems in the short term with closing some deals," said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif. "But I think in the long run the survivability of Internet-architected applications means that businesses will be looking at upgrading more rapidly to the Internet than before."

While this may actually boost sales for SAP and other major vendors such as Oracle Corp., he said the real danger is for smaller competitors, such as Denver-based J.D. Edwards & Co., which have less of an economic cushion to fall back on.

"I think the biggest change [in ERP] will be the enhancement of what we used to call 'disaster recovery,' " said Katherine Jones, an analyst at Boston-based Aberdeen Group Inc. "I don't see a direct effect to ERP. I think any slowdowns in ERP over 2001 are solely recession-induced; the big players seem to be plugging along with fairly sound strategies across the board."

SAP will announce its first three quarters' results on Oct. 18.

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