SAS cashed up and ready to go . . . public

After years of reticence, data warehouse vendor SAS Institute announced plans to pursue an initial public offering (IPO) sometime next year.

SAS cofounder and CEO James Goodnight said the company plans to go public in the next 12 to 18 months and expects to offer 15 per cent of the company's ownership in the IPO.

Raising cash isn't an issue for SAS, which has hundreds of millions of dollars in cash reserves. The IPO is aimed, in part, at helping SAS retain and reward existing employees while helping to attract new ones, Goodnight said.

SAS is the world's largest privately held software company with annual revenues of more than $US1 billion. According to Goodnight, the company has posted 23 consecutive years of double-digit revenue growth on an annual basis. SAS' revenues grew 17 per cent from 1998 to 1999, he said.

Historically, Goodnight, who holds a majority stake in the company along with cofounder John Sall, expressed reluctance to take the company public.

"One main reason companies go public is they need the money. And we just plain don't need the money," Goodnight said.

Goodnight said he also wanted to avoid the pressure of meeting earnings expectations on a quarterly basis. "If you have a bad quarter, they rake you over the coals and many companies become less focused on their products and more focused on quarterly results."

Although Goodnight boasts that the company's staff turnover rate is a meagre 5 per cent, he said an IPO would help retain and reward current employees and make recruiting new talent easier. SAS employs 3500 worldwide.

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