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The New ERP Software Haves/Have Nots

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A handful of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software companies have exited the great recession, regained their footing and posted respectable growth. Much like the macro economy, however, there is a growing divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

In the ERP industry, the haves include old-money titans Oracle and SAP, who both put up solid fourth quarter earnings. The “middle class,” meanwhile, presented a mixed bag of results as mid-cap players produced fairly tepid growth, and in one case, a decline in revenue. Finally, NetSuite represents the nueveau riche, aspiring to capitalize on the secular trend toward hosted enterprise apps – and succeeding.

A Q4 Comparison for Oracle and SAP

Before we dig into the details, a few things to note:

  • We stuck to revenue as a metric of company growth, and avoided talk of profit margins and net income. The later can get into tricky financial analysis.
  • When a company has a non-traditional quarter end (e.g. November instead of December), we used the most recent quarterly data available.
  • Our percentage change in stock price is calculated based on the closing price on September 30th, 2010 through December 31st, 2010.
  • We tried to note situations where currency exchange rates impacted results, but we didn’t get too picky about it.

Large-Cap ERP Companies

Oracle kicked off the earnings seasons in December when they announced a very strong November quarter. Total revenue for the quarter was $8.6 billion, up 47% from the prior year. We should note that roughly $1.8 billion of that growth comes from the Sun Microsystems acquisition, which closed within the past twelve months and therefore inflates the year-over-year growth.

Regardless, applications license revenue was $579 million, up 21% over the prior year’s November quarter. Wall Street analysts were shocked by the upside to their expectations, which had sat around $480 million. Large deals seemed to drive the upside as large enterprises re-entered the market after a couple years of laying low. These firms had delayed upgrades and new purchases during the recession and now represent pent-up demand for Oracle apps.

Another factor that may drive continued upside for Oracle is the rollout of the new Fusion Applications later this year. Oracle shares traded up 17% in the last three months of 2010 as investors are increasingly optimistic about Oracle’s outlook.

SAP also benefited from a return to large deals as it reported revenue of $5.4 billion in the quarter ended December 31st, 2010, up from $4.3 billion a year earlier. Roughly 10% of this growth resulted from foreign currency fluctuations which moved in SAP’s favor relative to 2009. Digging deeper, software license revenue grew 35% to roughly $2.0 billion, up from $1.5 billion in Q4 2009.

Beyond the improving economy, other factors helped to drive SAP’s improved growth. For one, there has been a substantial reshuffling of internal operations since Bill McDermott and Jim Hegemann Snabe took over as co-CEOs after Leo Apotheker left. Presumably, these changes have been effective. At the same time, SAP is benefiting from huge tailwinds behind business intelligence (BI) software. The company’s acquisition of Business Objects is proving to be prescient as BI demand continues to grow.

Microsoft reported a 7% increase in revenue from its Dynamics family of business applications. The company no longer breaks out specific revenue numbers for that unit, but we know that the current run rate is somewhere just North of $1 billion. This growth trails that of Oracle and SAP, but is in-line with the results of other mid-market players discussed below.

Small to Mid-Cap ERP Companies

Lawson Software grew revenue just 2% year over year in its quarter ended November 30th, 2010. All of its growth came from an increase software maintenance revenue – a sign that customers are sticking around. However, sales of new software licenses declined 7% (6% at constant currencies) to $26.4 million, from $28.4 million in the same quarter a year earlier. The company also continues to deliberately shift consulting work to partners, which reduced that side of the business 10% to $63.6 million from $70.9 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Lawson is clearly still feeling the effects of the downturn, but management pointed to two very healthy market segments – human capital management (HCM) and the health care vertical – which could drive growth in 2011.

Epicor’s revenue grew only 5% year over year in the quarter ended December 31st, 2010. However, management struck a very optimistic posture after releasing their results. They indicated that they are increasingly competing for larger deals at the top end of the mid market. Larger deals have longer cycles and some of these larger deals did not close in December as expected. Epicor is well positioned as they enter 2011 with a new product cycle (Epicor 9) and a new cloud offering at the low end of the market. The company also made a smart strategic moving in acquiring Spectrum’s HR solutions, which will allow them to participate in the HCM market.

Deltek grew revenue 23% year over year in its quarter ended December 31st, 2010. This growth was helped along by the addition of the Maconomy and INPUT operations it acquired earlier in 2010 (i.e. their results are not included in the prior year period). License revenue grew 8% to $20.8 million from $19.2 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Deltek has long benefited from a focus on project-oriented applications, and is now leveraging that foundation to offer new, non-software solutions, such as INPUT’s market intelligence services.

QAD was the only ERP vendor to report a decline in year over year revenue. QAD revenue declined 1% in its quarter ended October 31st, 2010. License revenue declined 19% to $6.8 million, from $8.4 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Maintenance revenue declined 2% to $33.2 million from $33.8 million in the same quarter a year earlier. In prepared statements, management pointed out that the company is controlling costs to maintain a solid balance sheet, while expecting that an improving manufacturing sector and a new on-demand offering will lead a return to growth later this year.

NetSuite posted very strong results, growing revenue 21% year over year in its quarter ended December 31st, 2010. Keep in mind that the vast majority of NetSuite’s revenue is subscription-based, so both the company’s scale of revenue and growth rates are even more impressive. NetSuite is a clear beneficiary of the popular movement to cloud computing. The company appears to be getting a hall pass on profitability: despite NetSuite not turning a profit, investors have bid up the stock to a $2 billion market capitalization, which surpasses that of the other mid-cap ERP players mentioned above.

Key Takeaways for the Software Industry

  • The ERP market has regained strength, but we’re seeing a growing disparity between the big ERP players and the mid-tier players.
  • As small and mid-size businesses return to the market in 2011, leading mid-tier players can regain momentum; others will flounder.
  • There is growing momentum behind cloud-based ERP, which will benefit NetSuite, as well as those traditional ERP companies that adapt.

Don Fornes is founder and CEO of Software Advice. This article first appeared at Haves vs. Have-Nots – Our Q4 2011 ERP Software Financial Roundup.

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