SAP ‘seeking major acquisitions’

Enterprise software vendor SAP is back in the market for acquisitions after ending its dismal run of financial results, the company has claimed in a newspaper interview.

Speaking to the Financial Times, recently installed co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said that he and his co-head Bill McDermott had been focusing on SAP’s "speed of innovation" since taking over from former chief Leo Apotheker earlier this year.

Snabe explained that SAP plans to become the market leader in both on-premise and on-demand software solutions within the next five years, suggesting that acquisitions could form a significant element of this strategy.

“M&A is certainly on the agenda," he told the newspaper, adding that any acquisition would be designed to boost its technology suite. "It is not relevant for us to buy market share or consolidate legacy [systems]."

When asked whether the Walldorf-based vendor would be making any purchases comparable to its $6.1 billion deal to takeover business intelligence vendor Business Objects in 2007, Snabe replied: "We are certainly looking for such opportunities."

As its sales declined throughout 2009, SAP was criticised for failing to turn innovative projects – such as its NetWeaver integration platform and its Business ByDesign software-as-a-service application – into commercial successes.

“Customers hope to have SAP as an innovation partner, but for the past five years it has failed to live up to that,” said Altimeter Group analyst R ‘Ray’ Wang at the UK SAP user group conference last year, before the company’s return to the co-CEO model was announced. " There’s so much innovation within SAP that is untapped, but right now its management structure is bloated, and it’s extremely bureaucratic."

Wang speculated today that there are number of possible areas into which SAP might expand via acquisition. The most viable would be the application optimisation market based around its own products, in which suppliers sell tools to develop, integrate and manage their SAP implementations. Other areas include middleware, social media monitoring or ‘platform as as service’.

"In any case, it is a good time to acquire," he said. "Most valuations remain low, and lots of new spaces have emerged that SAP could leapfrog into."

In April 2010, SAP revealed that revenues had grown 5% year-on-year to €2.51 billion during its most recent financial quarter, while profits jumped 97% to €387 million.

Peter Done

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula Business Services, the personnel and employment law consultancy he set up having already built a successful betting shop business.

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