13 June 2002 SAS Institute, the world’s largest privately held software company, still plans to go public, according to Art Cooke, the company’s president of international operations.
Cooke said that although plans to seek a public listing – hatched in 1999 at the height of the technology boom – were currently “shelved”, the company’s executive team still believe that an IPO is “a distinct possibility”. Cooke was speaking at the company’s European user group conference in Paris.
While SAS’ earlier initial public offering (IPO) ambitions were driven by the need to retain employees by offering them share options, says Cooke, the current economic downturn means that this is no longer a pressing reason for a stock market listing.
Instead, he says, the SAS Institute management team is interested in the publicity that a flotation and subsequent public status would generate for the 25-year old company.
“We’re so fed up with hearing our publicly listed competitors claiming to be the leading vendor in the business intelligence market,” said Cooke. “But we really don’t need to extend our capital, and there is no other compelling reason or event driving a flotation,” he added.
Cooke’s main concern about a SAS Institute IPO is that the company’s substantial annual investment in research and development might be sacrificed in the interests of shareholder profits. Currently, SAS Institute ploughs about a quarter of its annual $1.13 billion (€1.2bn) revenues into R&D – more than twice the software industry average.
In 2001, sales at SAS Institute grew only fractionally to $1.13 billion. However, said Cooke, sales in the company’s Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) operations went up 18%. He predicts that the company’s international operations will grow at a similar rate in 2002.
“We’ve shifted our focus from business intelligence to strategic intelligence. In an economic downturn, companies need information on their customers, their suppliers, and their own internal performance more than ever.”