Software firms will lead rebound, says SAS founder

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The Independent Online

One of the most influential of US businessmen, the billionaire majority shareholder of the world's biggest privately owned software group, believes that the tech sector will recover, but slowly.

Jim Goodnight, founder and chief executive of SAS, which makes analytical software to help business decision-making, said yesterday business-to-business use of the internet will dominate the evolution of online services.

And he predicted that software companies will lead the recovery in the tech market.

Mr Goodnight said: "I see the software sector pulling out first. We have no manufacturing backlog. There are companies in the market providing business intelligence software that have seen hardly any slowdown or none at all."

SAS, he said, was on track to increase recurring sales to existing customers, which account for about four-fifths of turnover, by 6 per cent in 2001. "Our sales to new customers are up 30 per cent in the year to date," he added.

SAS is expected to float on the US market next year. In 2000, the group recorded a 15 per cent after-tax profit margin on sales of $1.12bn (£800m).

Commenting on the recovery from the tech market crash, Mr Goodnight said: "I think it is going to be slow. But the venture capitalists have a lot of money to invest.

"I just hope they learned their lesson about throwing money at kids with no management or marketing experience," he added.

SAS makes software that allows businesses to analyse information about how their customers will behave.

In Britain, the company's so-called customer relationship management software is used by Barclays and other financial services firms as well as utilities. SAS employs nearly 500 in the UK at three locations but is also planning further expansion.

He also predicted that the era of ever-soaring wages for IT professionals, during which salaries at SAS doubled in three years, is over.

"The wage inflation we've seen over the last three years is going away, and I'm glad that the bubble burst, as it was costing the real software companies," he said.