SAS sold $2.43 billion worth of business software and services last year, as governments and corporations boosted technology spending in an effort to reduce costs and identify new sources of revenue.
SAS, one of the largest companies in the Triangle, reported Thursday that revenue rose 5.2 percent in 2010, more than double the 2.2 percent increase in 2009. Growth last year was driven primarily by the Cary company's business analytics group, which saw revenue jump 26 percent.
"We are seeing corporations loosening up their budgets," said Jim Davis, a SAS senior vice president and its chief marketing officer. "The economy feels very differently than it did 12 to 18 months ago."
The closely held company doesn't release detailed financials, but typically reports annual revenue numbers.
Its latest numbers look less impressive when compared with the growth being posted by some of SAS' publicly traded partners, said Bert Hochfeld of Hochfeld Independent Research Group.
Netezza, which was acquired by IBM in November, posted quarterly revenue growth of 45 percent in August. Another partner, Teradata, reported a 15 percent increase in revenues in the third quarter.
"I agree that they are in avery good place," Hochfeld said, "and my question is why the very good place yielded 5 percent growth in 2010."
SAS continues to maintain a commanding lead in the market for advanced analytics, Davis said, alluding to products that give customers forecasting capabilities.
It also continues to burnish its reputation as a desirable place to work. On Thursday, Fortune Magazine ranked SAS No. 1 on its list of the top 100 companies to work for in 2011, the second consecutive year it has held the top spot.
SAS expanded its North Carolina work force by 4 percent last year and now employs 4,611 people at its Cary headquarters. The company employs 11,489 around the world.
Although SAS suffered during the recession as companies slashed their IT budgets, the downturn has also benefited makers of analytics software.
Corporate leaders seeking to improve efficiencies and rebuild their businesses are increasingly turning to the data-driven products offered by SAS and others.
In financial services, which accounts for 42 percent of SAS' revenue, firms are relying more heavily on analytics to help manage risk and increase transparency.
Retailers, who have seen their margins shrink during the downturn, are using it to set merchandise levels and pricing.
Anti-fraud lab coming
Davis said one of the biggest growth areas for SAS is helping governments combat fraud. The company announced last month that it would create a new lab at its Cary headquarters that will work with government agencies on projects tailored to their needs.
The lab is starting with a staff of more than 200 culled from the company's existing work force, but SAS expects to expand the operation by at least 50 percent over the next two years.
"We certainly don't have hiring freeze on," Davis said of the company's hiring plans for 2011. "We are hiring in those areas where we see growth."
The explosive growth of the analytics market means the competitive landscape in which SAS operates has changed drastically in recent years. More companies, including many with deep pockets, are focusing on it.
SAS, which has been profitable since it was founded in 1976, is sitting on more than a billion dollars in cash. Although SAS invests about 20 percent of its revenue back into research and development, the company is also eyeing several possible acquisitions.
"With a hot market comes consolidation," Davis said, "and we feel like we're in good shape to take advantage of any consolidation opportunities."
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