Business software giant SAS plans to announce Thursday that its revenue grew 2.3 percent last year, half the rate it enjoyed in 2013, as the strong U.S. dollar depressed sales.
After adjusting for currency fluctuations, revenue rose 5.1 percent last year, just a smidgen behind the 5.2 percent revenue growth the Cary company enjoyed in 2013.
“If you look at the euro, it took a 12 percent drop last year ... and that hurts from a U.S. dollar perspective, certainly,” said SAS Senior Vice President Jim Davis.
American companies across a broad range of industries that have considerable business overseas have been reporting that sales and profits have been hurt by the strong dollar. Sixty-one percent of SAS’s revenue last year came from the Asia Pacific and EMEA countries – Europe, Middle East and Africa.
SAS’ revenue for 2014 totaled $3.09 billion, up from $3.02 billion a year earlier. The company’s annual revenue has risen each year throughout its 39-year history.
SAS is privately owned and doesn’t disclose its profits, but Davis said the company was profitable last year.
He called 2014 “a pretty good year. Certainly not a disappointing year. Certainly not a year where we’re going to pull out all the stops and have the biggest party the world’s ever seen.”
Corporations, government agencies and others use SAS business intelligence and analytics software to analyze their operations and predict trends. Market research firm IDC rates it No. 1 in the advanced and predictive analytics market, with a market share more than twice that of its closest competitor.
SAS added 193 employees at its Cary headquarters last year, giving it a total of 5,353 at the end of the year.
Worldwide, however, the company’s work force remained essentially flat, with 13,741 workers at the end of the year.
Although SAS’ workforce typically rises at the rate of its revenue growth, Davis said hiring worldwide “stalled” last year because the company began changing how it operates in other countries.
“We’ve already picked that back up,” he added, noting that SAS has just over 350 job openings worldwide at the moment, including about 70 in Cary.
Until recently each country has had its own SAS manager and a staff that reported to him or her, but SAS has been shifting to a model that consolidates a number of functions regionally “so that resources can be shared,” Davis said.
Growth in the cloud
Revenue from SAS’ cloud offerings rose a robust 24 percent last year.
SAS’ cloud service hosts the software for its customers, enabling them to avoid investing in costly hardware. Alternatively, customers can hire SAS to run complex analyses for them in the cloud.
Cloud offerings are “the hottest growth area right now for most (software) companies,” Davis said.
The growth of the cloud business was one of the factors that drove the expansion of the workforce in Cary, where SAS opened a new 220,000-square-foot building in the fall to accommodate its SAS Solutions OnDemand business, which develops and supports its cloud products.
But the majority of the job growth in Cary was additional salespeople and consultants, Davis said.
Revenue generated by SAS Visual Analytics rose 12 percent. Introduced two years ago, Visual Analytics enables users to graphically portray large amounts of data to make it easier to pick out patterns.
“Companies realize that with technology today, they can easily capture tons of data that’s out there in a cost-effective way,” Davis said. “But then, once they have it, they don’t necessarily know what they have.”
Davis is upbeat about 2015, noting that Big Data is becoming ever more important to businesses and that SAS has taken steps that it expects will boost sales generated by its corporate partners.
“I’d like to think that we are going to see double-digit growth,” he said, adding: “I think I probably told you that last year too.”