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SAP Cloud Growth Falls Short; Shares Drop

A fourth-quarter operating profit rise of 14 percent to about $2.84 billion just isn't enough.


Shares of the German business software giant SAP are falling in pre-market trading this morning after the company issued a preliminary earnings report for the fourth quarter and full year that showed its HANA cloud software business to be growing, but with results that were slightly shy of analysts’ expectations.

The company said its operating profit in the fourth quarter rose by 14 percent to 2.09 billion euro or about $2.84 billion. That was close but slightly behind the 2.1 billion euro that analysts had been expecting. Revenue was 5.11 billion euro, and grew about six percent year on year.

SAP’s U.S.-traded shares fell by nearly two percent to $83.01 in pre-market trading.

On the cloud software front, SAP said sales of its HANA line of products — essentially cloud adaptations of its existing line of applications — reached 664 million euro in 2013 for a gain of 69 percent over 2012 after adjusting for the effects of currency exchange rates.

Last year, SAP was accused by one analyst of playing fast and loose with the numbers it reports on HANA sales in order to make the product look more successful than it is. And indeed, if you ask CEO Bill McDermott about it, you’ll quickly hear him describe it as the “fastest growing software product on the planet.” But that accusation was a minority view and other analysts stepped up to defend SAP’s reporting.

SAP’s cloud software business unit has seen some management shake-ups in the last year. Earlier this week, the company confirmed the resignation of Robert Calderoni, the former head of Ariba, a cloud software company SAP acquired last year. He had succeeded Lars Dalgaard, the former head of SuccessFactors, who left to become a partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz last year. SAP acquired SuccessFactors in 2011, a move that kick-started a significant migration into the cloud.

The results were preliminary and SAP will give its full report, including guidance, on Jan. 21.

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