Currency wars proved to be about as big a battle for SAS to fight in 2014 as it did from any competitor in the data analytics business while trying to protect a record of growing revenues and being profitable every year since its founding.

Driven by strong growth in cloud computing-related data analytics and with the help of a growing number of partners, SAS drove revenues to a record high and extend its profitability for a 39th consecutive year. But currency “headwinds” – a weakening Euro and a likewise strengthening dollar – cut into what would have been an even better year, says Jim Davis, chief marketing officer and executive vice president at the world’s largest privately held software firm.

Europe and surrounding regions make up the biggest revenue share for SAS – and what’s good news for consumers is not good for the Cary-based but very global company.

“We’re very pleased with the growth that we saw in cloud computing, we’ve got a new building filled with people focused on work in the cloud where we grew by 24.5 percent, and we’re also very pleased with the work we’ve don with our data visualization product, seeing that thing more than double,” Davis said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. 

“We have a lot of new efforts underway, and much of what we are doing is resonating around the world.”

Looking ahead to 2015, Davis envisions growth continuing, driven in part by the “Internet of Things” with billions of net-connected devices from cars to refrigerators providing more information for data-hungry service providers and manufacturers. 

Another major factor driving growth, Davis explained, is SAS’s ever deepening embrace of partners such as Accenture, Deloitte and Ernst & Young, to just name three, to a fast-growing network of resellers who install and help service SAS  solutions. SAS continues to grow its own sales force, he explained, but having more companies bringing in SAS as part of solutions is leading to more engagements and deals.

Currency wars

Overall, SAS revenues climbed 2.3 percent from a year ago, and in what’s called “constant currency” the growth was 5 percent – similar to the pace set in 2013.

But a decline in the value of the Euro to the dollar cut into SAS’s growth. And SAS is not alone.

“Do you have the Wall Street Journal in front of you?” Davis asked. The top story at that moment focused on how “headwinds” in currency are hitting U.S.-based firms.

“Squeezing,” Davis noted. “The Euro dropped 12 percent from the beginning of last year. That exchange rate hurts. It hurts a lot.

“The consumer may love it if you live in North Carolina and you travel to Europe. You can buy more. But for us, in the EMEA {Europe, Middle East, Africa], that really hurts us. We’re definitely not getting as much back.”

The falling Euro means SAS must sell even more products and services to grow revenues.

And the challenge can’t be understated, given where SAS does mmuchof its business. The EMEA made up 39 percent of SAS sales in 2014 compared to 48 percent in the U.S. and 13 percent in Asia Pacific.

“Growth was similar to last year. It might have been a little bit lower,” Davis said. But he noted that “constant currency … is true growth.”

More employees in Cary

SAS cited a variety of reasons for its growth, including booming demand for its sophisticated tools, software and services to help clients make sense and benefit from the glut of data being produced worldwide every second of every day. From projecting trends and identifying ways to improve productivity to cutting down on fraud and developing new drugs, SAS boats a growing and increasingly diversified client base.

As a result, SAS grew its headcount in Cary by some 3 percent to nearly 5,400. And SAS is continuing to hire in sales and “cloud” related well as other areas, Davis noted.

SAS opened a new building, Q, in 2014 just to house the more than 600 people working on cloud applications, and Davis pointed out: “We haven’t stopped growing on campus.”

[For a detailed breakdown on revenues and growth, check out the accompanying 3-part infographic accompanying this story.]

 SAS also is NOT for sale and NOT thinking about going public when asked the annual questions about the company’s future. 

“We are not interested in being acquired,” a spokesperson explained.

“We are in a good position. We are profitable, have no debt, and do not have to answer to outside investors. We are in today’s hottest technology space and we are enjoying meeting the challenges businesses present us. Being privately-held liberates SAS to focus on innovation. Profitable, debt-free growth enables SAS to remain independent.”

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