CARY Business software giant SAS says double-digit revenue growth is a possibility this year, as stronger than expected sales in the U.S. and Asia have more than offset sluggish corporate spending in Europe.
Jim Davis, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in an interview at the companys Cary headquarters that he expects double-digit sales growth in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific markets this year. But sales in Europe have been flat so far because of the continents economic woes. In 2011, Europe, the Middle East and Africa accounted for 42 percent of SASs revenue.
Davis said he is encouraged that the company has a fat pipeline of new business in Europe, but its hard to say how quickly that it can convert potential customers because the struggling European economy has lengthened the sales cycle.
If Im going to be optimistic, were going to see double-digit growth, Davis said. If Im going to be pessimistic, Im going to say were going to see lower, single-digit growth.
If SASs revenue growth comes in at the low end of Davis projection, it would fall short of the 12 percent spurt that propelled the company to $2.725 billion in revenue in 2011. Last years growth far outstripped the 5.2 percent rise in sales the company saw in 2010.
The fourth quarter is crucial for SAS because thats typically when the company logs more than 30 percent of what it calls new sales sales to brand-new customers or sales to existing customer that expand their use of SAS software.
Davis said he is pleased with the companys overall performance and very pleased with sales growth in the U.S.
I really didnt think it would be up as much as it is right now, he said of U.S. sales. I thought people (would still be going) around wearing T-shirts saying, Im cautiously optimistic but Im not buying anything.
SAS is privately held but discloses its annual revenue, which has increased every year since it was founded in 1976. The company doesnt disclose its profit.
Corporations, government agencies and others use SAS business intelligence and analytics software to analyze their operations and predict trends.
What we sell in the marketplace has a very strong, quantifiable return on investment, Davis said. Were selling fraud-detection software. Were selling risk-calculation software. ... thats why we grow even in a down economy.
SAS relies on annual subscription fees from customers, which makes it harder to increase revenue compared to competitors that typically charge a large upfront fee plus much smaller maintenance fees in subsequent years.
SAS is one of the Triangles largest private employers and has steadily added to its local workforce as it has grown. It broke ground in the summer on a 213,000-square-foot building at its sprawling Cary campus that will house about 650 workers when it is ready for occupancy in 2014.
SAS has 5,048 workers in Cary after adding 219 employees so far this year. Company-wide, SAS has 13,343 workers, up 6.2 percent from the beginning of the year, which is ahead of what we had budgeted for this year, Davis said.
Looking beyond 2012, Davis is bullish on the markets reception of the companys High-Performance Analytics offering, unveiled at the end of last year, which he called probably one of the most significant technology advancements in SASs 36-year history. It enables dramatically faster data analysis.
Its a brand-new revenue stream, he said. We have a very large sales pipeline for next year. We are going to see this have a heavy impact on SASs revenue next year.
High-Performance Analytics, which includes various components that customers can pick and choose from, enabled a Singapore bank to perform a risk analysis that previously took 20 hours in just 15 minutes, Davis said. A European telecommunications company with about 12 million customers that used to devote 10 hours to analyzing how best to optimize its marketing dollars can now do it in 90 seconds.
As people are now relying on data to support their day-to-day decision making, it has become strategic to their operations, Davis said. As such, theyre demanding answers much quicker than they might have in the past.
Davis said SAS also has embarked on overhauling the user interfaces of a number of its products. Earlier this year it revamped the interface for its Visual Analytics Explorer software, a data discovery tool used for analyzing large amounts of data and detecting patterns.
SAS has taken a knock for years on its interface, Davis said. We have always been known as the most sophisticated engine when you get under the covers, and people have always said, why isnt your interface prettier?
But the reaction to Visual Analytics Explorers interface has been so upbeat that that company is considering making its look and feel standard across all of SASs products, Davis said.