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SAP bucks gloomy software trend by keeping profit forecast

A man cycles past the SAP logo at its offices in the CityWest complex, Dublin September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
A man cycles past the SAP logo at its offices in the CityWest complex, Dublin September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

By Harro Ten Wolde

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German business software firm SAP bucked the trend among rivals by keeping its 2013 profit forecast, buoyed by strong demand for its web-based software, though it warned volatile exchange rates could hit its reported results.

Shares in the company jumped over 5 percent in early Monday trading after it stuck by its forecast for a full-year operating profit of 5.85-5.95 billion euros ($8.01-8.18 billion) at constant currencies, up 12-14 percent from 2012.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a cut, with the average of 10 analysts predicting an operating profit of 5.58 billion euros.

"It is important that the outlook was maintained after almost all peers warned in their third-quarter reports," a Frankfurt-based trader said.

SAP's rival Oracle last month gave a cautious outlook for its fiscal second quarter as it continued to battle soft global IT demand and smaller rivals focused on providing software over the Internet.

SAP, based in the southern German town of Walldorf, also confirmed its forecast for revenues from software and software-related services to rise at least 10 percent this year, excluding exchange rate fluctuations.

But if exchange rates remain at September levels, growth could come in about 5 percentage points lower than expected, it added.

SAP also said its operating profit growth, excluding special items, could see a hit of about 7 percentage points from currency effects.

"Today, it is mainly the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen which impacted our overall performance, and there are some other currencies," SAP's Chief Financial Officer Werner Brandt said, referring to these currencies weakening versus the euro.

"You can't limit it down to just one currency. It is the entire basket of currencies."

SAP reported a 5 percent rise in third-quarter operating profit, excluding special items, to 1.3 billion euros, fuelled by its web-based software products.

That was broadly in line with analysts' average expectation of 1.33 billion euros in a Reuters poll.

Sales of software licenses, an important indicator for future revenues, dropped 5 percent to 975 million euros, hitting the most pessimistic estimate in the poll.

"While a miss, we believe this is better than feared," said Daud Khan, an analyst at Berenberg.

"It seems some investors had expected worse results," added a Frankfurt-based trader who declined to be named.

At 0735 GMT, SAP shares were up 5.2 percent at 56.28 euros, among the biggest rises by a European blue-chip stock <.FTEU3>.

The shares are still down around 7 percent this year, underperforming a 20 percent rise in the European technology sector <.SX8P>.

($1 = 0.7302 euros)

(Editing by Maria Sheahan and Mark Potter)

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