Europe's top technology company SAP announced a US$2.4 billion US acquisition to help it boost revenues from its cloud platform and chief executive Bill McDermott said it would streamline its overall business this year to bolster margins.
The German company is midway through a strategic transition, aiming to force the pace on developing its S/4 HANA cloud platform, which now counts 7900 customers, and wean customers off software sold under licence and installed at offices and factories.
The shift has squeezed margins in recent years because the cloud business model is based on subscriptions which take longer to pay off, in contrast to one-off, up-front software licence payments that was the thrust of its business for decades.
But McDermott told Reuters the strategy was now bearing fruit after SAP broadly stabilised its operating margins in the fourth quarter at 35.2 percent.
Acquiring US sales software firm Callidus, in a deal announced on Tuesday, will help SAP in its ambition to become the market leader in so-called front-office software used in sales and marketing, building on its strength in back-office software that is used by companies to maintain control over far-flung multinational operations.
In an interview at SAP's sprawling campus in Walldorf, Germany, McDermott said SuccessFactors, the human resources application acquired by SAP for US$3.4 billion in 2011, would be fully migrated to the cloud this year.
"This year, the entire company will be on one platform," McDermott told Reuters after SAP announced 2017 results that met its twice-raised guidance but came in just shy of analyst expectations.
He described Callidus as a "tuck-in" deal that would not move the needle on revenues but that he valued for the company's market leadership and innovation.
As Callidus was on the cloud, it would help SAP achieve a 2020 goal of having "predictable" revenues of 70 to 75 percent of the total. These grew by 1 percentage point to 63 percent in 2017.
"We did that to get another cloud revenue stream in the mix," McDermott said.
SAP reiterated a forecast for 2020 of non-IFRS operating profit of 8.5 to 9.0 billion euros (US$10.5 to US$11.1 billion) on revenue of 28 to 29 billion euros.
SAP shares were little changed - falling a fraction of 1 percent to trade at 91.72 euros (A$140.72) in Frankfurt at 1022 GMT.
Reporting by Douglas Busvine and Eric Auchard. Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Susan Fenton.