SAP Beats Street - Sees 2021 Revenue Flat

January 29, 2021

SAP reported financial results for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2020. The firm had earnings per share of €1.69 on revenue of €7.54B. But Wall Street was only expecting EPS of €1.6 on revenue of €7.48B.

SAP guided adjusted revenue, at constant currency, to be flat to up 2% this year, while adjusted operating profit was seen falling by 1%-6%.

Christian Klein, SAP CEO said, "The world’s leading companies are turning to SAP to become intelligent enterprises. We are reinventing how businesses run by accelerating our customers’ transformation in the cloud. Our strong finish to the year and the launch of RISE with SAP, our new holistic business transformation offering, position us well to meet our new outlook targets."

Luka Mucic, SAP CFO added, "In a uniquely challenging environment, 2020 was a record year for cash flow in every single quarter and the full year. Our better-than-anticipated top line performance combined with our quick response on the cost side drove strong operating profit. SAP’s expedited shift to the cloud will drive long-term, sustainable growth while significantly increasing the resiliency and predictability of our business."

Business Update

SAP's business performance sequentially improved in the fourth quarter even as the COVID-19 crisis persisted and lockdowns were reintroduced in many regions. Cloud revenue in the fourth quarter continued to be impacted by lower pay-as-you-go transactional revenue, mainly Concur business travel related. However, continued high demand for e-commerce, Business Technology Platform, and Qualtrics solutions along with several competitive wins – particularly for SuccessFactors Human Experience Management – produced a strong finish to the year for SAP's cloud business. SAP also saw strong early take up of its new holistic business transformation offering "RISE with SAP" among pilot customers, contributing to the cloud performance in the fourth quarter. Both North America and Europe experienced a better-than-expected performance in cloud order entry as well as software licenses revenue reflecting strong demand for SAP's digital supply chain solutions in particular. In addition, SAP had significant competitive wins in ERP.

Recent Highlights:

  • SAP launched "RISE with SAP" on January 27, 2021, a simplified pathway for customers to transition their mission critical systems to the cloud and transform their business, delivered as a holistic commercial package with one subscription fee.
  • Successful IPO of Qualtrics on January 28, 2021, maximizing Qualtrics' opportunity to expand their business and build the best talent while SAP retains majority ownership. At IPO, the company was valued at almost $18 billion, more than double the original acquisition price. Qualtrics shares moved even higher on the first day of trading, ending the day with a gain of just over +50%.
  • Completed the acquisition of Emarsys on November 4th, 2020, a leading omnichannel customer engagement platform provider.
  • Deepened business process intelligence capabilities with the acquisition of Signavio.
  • Expanded Microsoft relationship around Teams integration, Industry 4.0 and simplification of SAP ERP migration to the cloud on Azure.
  • Announced a new partnership with Europe's leading industrial companies, car manufacturers and their suppliers to build the automotive network of the future. 

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, SAP continues to serve its customers effectively with an embedded virtual sales and remote implementation strategy. The company retains a disciplined approach to hiring and discretionary spend while capturing natural savings e. g. from lower travel, facility-related costs and virtual events. In combination with the strong topline performance these actions drove higher operating profit and operating margin (both in IFRS and non-IFRS at constant currencies) despite the challenging macro environment.

SAP also continues to be a key technology partner in helping customers and the broader community address COVID-19 challenges. Initiatives include:

  • Launched a vaccine collaboration hub (VCH) for Life Sciences organizations to better manage vaccine supply distribution, and to help governments and their industry partners coordinate and successfully deploy mass vaccination programs.
  • The "Corona Warn App", SAP's contact track and trace app, has now been downloaded more than 25 million times helping to curb the virus spread.
  • Co-innovation with Parkland Health & Hospital System to tackle urgent needs related to COVID-19: a command center dashboard to make essential decisions; a critical inventory tracker to help ensure real-time accurate tracking and availability of critical inventory such as ventilators; an online, self-service, multilingual symptom checker chatbot enabling patients to go through an initial COVID-19 screening thereby reducing load on its overwhelmed call center and reducing face-to-face interactions to improve safety.
  • Partnered with Mercy Technology Services, the IT division of St. Louis-based health system Mercy, to harness the power of data analytics to produce real-world evidence (RWE) for more informed patient care.

Financial Performance1

Full-Year 2020

SAP exceeded all of its revised 2020 revenue targets and hit the high end of its revised operating profit outlook range.

For the full year current cloud backlog was up 7% year over year to €7.15 billion (up 14% at constant currencies) amid continued COVID-19 effects on SAP's cloud business. Cloud revenue grew by 17% year over year to €8.08 billion (IFRS), up 15% to €8.09 billion (non-IFRS) and up 18% to €8.24 billion (non-IFRS at constant currencies), exceeding the revised full year outlook (€8.0 to €8.2 billion non-IFRS at constant currencies). Continued lower transactional revenues, particularly in Concur, negatively impacted cloud growth by 4 percentage points. Cloud revenue from SAP's SaaS/PaaS offerings, that do not belong to Intelligent Spend, and its IaaS offering grew by 27% and 23% (non-IFRS at constant currencies), respectively. Software licenses revenue was down 20% year over year to €3.64 billion (IFRS and non-IFRS) and down 17% (non-IFRS at constant currencies). Cloud and software revenue was up 1% year over year to €23.23 billion (IFRS and non-IFRS) and up 3% to €23.72 billion (non-IFRS at constant currencies), exceeding the revised full year outlook (€23.1 – 23.6 billion). Total revenue was down 1% year over year to €27.34 billion (IFRS and non-IFRS) and up 1% to €27.90 billion (non-IFRS at constant currencies), also exceeding the revised full year outlook (€27.2 – 27.8 billion).

The share of more predictable revenue grew by 5 percentage points year over year to 72% for the full year 2020.

Cloud gross margin increased 3.1 percentage points year over year to 66.5% (IFRS) and increased by 1.4 percentage points year over year to 69.6% (non-IFRS).

For the full year, IFRS operating profit and operating margin were positively impacted by significantly lower restructuring charges as well as lower share-based compensation expenses compared to 2019. Operating profit increased by 48% year over year to €6.62 billion (IFRS) and was up 1% to €8.28 billion (non-IFRS) and up 4% to €8.50 billion (non-IFRS at constant currencies), hitting the high end of the revised full year outlook (€8.1 – 8.5 billion). Operating margin increased 8.0 percentage points year over year to 24.2% (IFRS) and increased 0.6 percentage points year over year to 30.3% (non-IFRS) and 0.8 percentage points to 30.5% (non-IFRS at constant currencies) for the full year.

Earnings per share increased 56% to €4.35 (IFRS) and increased 6% to €5.41 (non-IFRS) reflecting a strong contribution from Sapphire Ventures.

Operating cash flow for the full year was € 7.19 billion, approximately doubling year over year and significantly above the raised outlook of approximately €6.0 billion. Free cash flow increased 164% year over year to €6.00 billion, significantly above the raised outlook of above €4.5 billion. Cash flow was positively impacted by lower tax and restructuring payments and a successful working capital management. At year end, net debt was –€6.50 billion.

Fourth Quarter 2020

In the fourth quarter, cloud revenue grew 8% year over year to €2.04 billion (IFRS), up 7% to €2.04 billion (non-IFRS) and up 13% (non-IFRS at constant currencies). Continued lower transactional revenues, particularly in Concur, negatively impacted cloud growth by 2 percentage points. Cloud revenue from SAP's SaaS/PaaS offerings, that do not belong to Intelligent Spend, and its IaaS offering grew by 22% and 17% (non-IFRS at constant currencies), respectively. Software licenses revenue was down 15% year over year to €1.70 billion (IFRS and non-IFRS) and down 11% (non-IFRS at constant currencies). Cloud and software revenue was down 4% year over year to €6.58 billion (IFRS and non-IFRS) and up 1% (non-IFRS at constant currencies). Total revenue was down 6% year over year to €7.54 billion (IFRS and non-IFRS) and down 2% (non-IFRS at constant currencies).

Cloud gross margin increased 2.1 percentage points year over year to 67.2% (IFRS) and increased by 0.5 percentage points year over year to 70.0% (non-IFRS).

In the fourth quarter, IFRS operating profit and operating margin were positively impacted by lower share-based compensation expenses compared to the prior year period. Operating profit increased by 26% year over year to €2.66 billion (IFRS) and was down 3% to €2.77 billion (non-IFRS) and up 3% (non-IFRS at constant currencies). Operating margin increased by 9.1 percentage points year over year to 35.2% (IFRS) and increased 1.4 percentage points year over year to 36.7% (non-IFRS) and 1.5 percentage points to 36.8% (non-IFRS at constant currencies).

EPS was up 19% year over year to €1.62 (IFRS) and down 7% year over year to €1.69 (non-IFRS).

Non-Financial Performance 2020

SAP also showed a strong performance in non-financial metrics. Customer Net Promoter Score (NPS) increased ten points year-on-year to +4 in 2020, exceeding the outlook. This strong positive result reverses a four-year downward trend and is a result of the Company's focus on implementing customer feedback, harmonizing customer interactions, and integration across the product portfolio.

SAP's Employee Engagement Index increased 3 percentage points to a record 86%, at the upper end of the outlook. SAP's retention rate was 95.3% (2019: 93.3%). Further the proportion of women in management increased to 27.5% (2019: 26.4%).

Greenhouse gas emissions were below the revised outlook from October 2020. In 2020 SAP's greenhouse gas emissions were 135 kilotons, down 165 kt year-on-year. In addition to the Company's measures to decrease carbon emissions, the continued travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic contributed significantly to the decrease.

Segment Performance Fourth Quarter 2020

SAP's four reportable segments "Applications, Technology & Support", "Concur", "Qualtrics" and "Services" showed the following performance: 

Applications, Technology & Support (AT&S)

In the fourth quarter, segment revenue in AT&S was down 4% to €6.21 billion year over year (up 1% at constant currencies). Solutions which contributed to this growth are listed below.


SAP S/4HANA is an intelligent, integrated ERP system that runs on SAP's real time in-memory platform, SAP HANA. It addresses industry-specific requirements with proven best practices for 25 verticals and enables new business models as marketplaces evolve. It revolutionizes business processes with intelligent automation, supported by artificial intelligence and robotic process automation. It helps users make better decisions faster with embedded analytics, a conversational interface, and digital assistants.

Approximately 900 SAP S/4HANA customers were added in the quarter, taking total adoption to approximately 16,000 customers, up 16% year over year, of which more than 8,700 are live. In the fourth quarter, approximately 40% of the additional SAP S/4HANA customers were net new.

In the fourth quarter, world-class organizations such as L'Oréal, Shell, Schwarz IT KG (Lidl), Co-op, Unilever, s.Oliver Group, Gilead Sciences, and Saudi Aramco chose SAP S/4HANA. Boehringer Ingelheim went live with SAP S/4HANA in 41 Countries simultaneously. BT Group, A. P. Møller-Mærsk, Beijing Energy, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Egypt, and Bertelsmann also went live. A fast-growing number of companies of all sizes such as CureVac, Zespri, Oxford University Press, The Not Company, Nippon Cargo Airlines, BMW, Atos, and I-PEX chose SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

Human Experience Management (HXM)

The SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management (HXM) Suite provides solutions for core HR and payroll, talent management, employee experience management and people analytics. Built as a highly scalable platform it meets complex cross border requirements, delivering tax regulation and HR policy updates in 101 specific countries, 42 languages and payroll in 46 countries.

HXM is designed around what employees need, how they work, and what motivates them. It empowers employees and enables HR leaders to accelerate business growth.

SAP SuccessFactors HXM solutions leverage Qualtrics solutions allowing customers to capture insights from employees and link them with operational data to see what is happening, understand why and take action. More than 900 customers have selected these solutions.

BIC, City of Houston, Vodafone Idea Limited, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, Fujitsu Ltd., and NORD/LB were some of many competitive wins. Klosterfrau Healthcare Group and FC Bayern München went live in Q4.

SAP was ranked as a leader in the IDC MarketScape for Worldwide Talent Acquisition Suites for Large Enterprise, and the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud HCM Suites for 1,000+ Employee Enterprises.

SAP Customer Experience

SAP Customer Experience (CX) combines leading solutions for commerce, service, marketing, sales, and customer data, enabling companies to manage and deliver personalized customer experiences across touchpoints and channels based on a complete view of the customer. As part of the Intelligent Enterprise, SAP CX suite integrates with SAP S/4HANA from demand signals to fulfillment in one end-to-end process. 

SAP CX solutions also use the benefits of Qualtrics Customer Experience Management to understand the wants and needs of customers. This enables organizations to combine customer feedback and operational data to listen, understand and take action in the moment to improve the customer experience. 

In the fourth quarter, SAP's e-commerce solution showed a strong performance, more than doubling cloud revenue year over year.

Carrefour, Mindray, Miele & Cie. KG, Sundiro Honda Motorcycle Co., Ltd., Piaggio & C. S.p.A., and VINCI Energies chose SAP Customer Experience solutions, with Beiersdorf, Deutsche Börse and Mondi AG going live.

SAP was recently named a leader in the IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Retail Commerce Platform Software Providers 2020 Vendor Assessment report.

SAP Business Technology Platform

SAP Business Technology Platform powers customers to become intelligent enterprises and is a central element of SAP's new "RISE with SAP" offering. Its leading technologies like SAP HANA, SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP Integration Suite and SAP Extension Suite enable customers to build, integrate and extend applications, while turning their data into business value. Its easy access to the ecosystem ensures development agility and speed. SAP Business Technology Platform supports cloud, on-premise and hybrid customer landscapes, offering seamless interoperability with other platform technologies to deliver a high level of scalability, flexibility and efficiency.

Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (German Red Cross), Nomad Foods Europe Ltd., and Enel selected SAP Business Technology Platform and SAP Analytics Cloud solutions.

In the fourth quarter, SAP further strengthened the Business Technology Platform as the engine for our customers business transformation with new tools and functionalities for low-code and no-code process automation.

SAP was recently named as a leader in both the Gartner "Magic Quadrant for Metadata Management Solutions" and its "Magic Quadrant for Cloud Database Management Systems".

Ariba & Fieldglass

SAP Ariba provides collaborative commerce capabilities from sourcing and orders through invoice and payment along with expertise to help customers optimize their spend. The solutions drive simple, intelligent exchanges between millions of buyers and suppliers across both direct and indirect expense categories.

SAP launched Qualtrics XM for Suppliers, a new solution that combines data from an organization's SAP Ariba, SAP Fieldglass and SAP S/4HANA solutions with real-time supplier insights and AI-driven intelligence from Qualtrics, to empower organizations to identify key areas of improvement across the source-to-pay process to help secure critical supply, increase cost savings, mitigate risk and improve business agility.

SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass, together with SAP Concur, represent SAP's intelligent spend platform, the largest commerce platform in the world with over $4.1 trillion in global commerce annually transacted in more than 180 countries. 

Esselunga S.p.A., Nestlé, General Motors, Ecopetrol, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Sony Picture Networks India chose SAP Ariba solutions in the fourth quarter.

SAP was recently named a leader for its SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass integrated solutions in the Gartner 2020 Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suites report.

SAP Fieldglass is the leader in external workforce management and services procurement. The solutions help organizations find, engage, and manage all types of flexible resources including contingent workers, consultants and freelancers. SAP Fieldglass added more than 1 million new external workers during the fourth quarter. Chevron chose SAP Fieldglass solutions in the fourth quarter.

SAP Fieldglass solutions were recently positioned as a Market Leader in the Ardent Partners 2020 Vendor Management System Technology Advisor report.


In the fourth quarter, Concur segment revenue was down 20% to €341 million year over year (down 15% at constant currencies) due to lower pay-as-you-go transactional revenue as a result of significantly reduced business travel related to the COVID-19 crisis.

SAP Concur provides integrated travel, expense, and invoice management solutions that simplify and automate these everyday processes. The SAP Concur mobile app guides employees through business trips, charges are effortlessly populated into expense reports, and invoice approvals are automated. By integrating near real-time data and using AI to analyze 100% of transactions, the SAP Concur spend management solution provides better visibility to help efficiently control employee-driven spend.

Canadian Pacific Railway Company, Nikkei, Inc., and Software AG were among the organizations who chose SAP Concur solutions in the fourth quarter.


In the fourth quarter, Qualtrics segment revenue was up 17% to €183 million year over year (up 26% at constant currencies).

With Qualtrics, SAP combines market leadership in Experience Management (XM) with end-to-end operational power in 25 industries to help organizations design and improve the four core experiences of business: customer, employee, product and brand.

The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is trusted by over 13,000 customers as mission-critical software that enables breakthrough design and continuous improvement that allows all four experiences to be managed on a single, connected platform.

In the fourth quarter, Deutsche Bank, Burton Snowboards, Bank of Montreal, Uber Singapore, University of Auckland, Rosetta Stone, HSBC, GE Healthcare, Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, and many others selected Qualtrics to move beyond systems of record to new systems of action and achieve breakthrough results.


In the fourth quarter, Services segment revenue was down 16% to €758 million year over year (down 11% at constant currencies). The services implementation business continues to demonstrate its resilience and flexibility with SAP's shift to remote delivery, and SAP's premium services remain in high demand. However, SAP's training business continues to be impacted due to delays in re-opening of global training centers.

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