SAS claims a boom year in the UK

The business of business intelligence has never been better, says SAS

Across the business intelligence (BI) market, vendors are reporting that 2005 was a pretty good year, and in some cases very good one. Privately held statistical analysis and BI software supplier SAS joined this trend on Wednesday when it reported it had enjoyed a boom year, particularly in the UK.

SAS's total revenue in the UK was its highest ever at £71m, the company said, and new sales were up 30 percent. New software licences in the UK were particularly strong in the financial services sector, while SAS saw a 66 percent increase in sales in the general services sector, which includes transport, leisure and technology.

However, SAS is a privately held company which makes it difficult for others to understand how well or badly the company may be doing at any one time.

In addition, the company's licensing model is unlike most in the industry, since the company does not sell any software at all, and only rents it. This has pluses for SAS and its customers as the revenue growth is steady and predictable, as is the cost of ownership.

However there are downsides, as an analyst who wished to remain anonymous, explained. "Who owns the software? SAS does, so what happens if the customer wants to change vendor? They put all the investment in — in time and in people — and then find they can't change vendor because they can't take any of that investment across. It won't work."

Nevertheless, as the latest figures show, SAS continues to do well with its customers, at least in the key area of renewals. SAS customers renew their rental annually, and the company reported that renewals are currently running at 99.2 percent. SAS also reported that it continues to be able to re-invest in the company at around 25 percent, which is around double the average for the software industry as a whole.

SAS also claims to be doing well in markets outside its core sector of financial services, and highlighted its successes in the public sector in the UK, especially with the police.

"We are seeing very, very big growth in demand from the police sector since the Soham inquiry," said John Dalton, the chief executive of SAS for the UK and Ireland. "That made it clear that the police don't have very good data. It is a very good example of how SAS is adding value." One of the areas highlighted by the Soham inquiry was the lack of continuity of data between one police force and another.

SAS worldwide continued an "unbroken record of revenue growth and profitability" with overall revenues of $1.68bn in 2005. Dalton said.