Skip to Content

Expected Developments
and Opportunities

Future Trends in the Global Economy

In its most recent report, the European Central Bank (ECB) forecasts moderate growth in the world economy and it expects that this growth will vary across regions and countries in 2016. It foresees more favorable prospects for advanced economies than for emerging markets and developing economies. Geopolitical risks, especially of heightened tensions in the Middle East, could undermine global economic performance, the ECB warns.

In the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region, the ECB expects the euro-area economy to recover slightly more rapidly in 2016 than in the previous year. It suggests that low oil prices, increased public-sector spending on assistance for refugees, and its own monetary measures may encourage that acceleration. In Central and Eastern Europe, the ECB expects economic activity to remain stable but for performance to vary from country to country. The European Union’s structural funds and strong consumer spending may be principal factors behind such growth. In Russia, on the other hand, the economic situation is expected to remain difficult. The ECB expects further cuts in public spending as a consequence of declining oil revenue.

The ECB’s forecasts for 2016 for a number of major countries in the Americas region are cautious. For the United States, the ECB expects that economic growth may slow following the Federal Reserve’s move on interest rates in December 2015. The ECB expects political uncertainty, a tightening of monetary policy, and more restrictive financing conditions to continue to weigh on Brazil’s economy.

For the Asia Pacific Japan (APJ) region, the ECB expects that wage increases and low oil prices will improve consumer spending in Japan. Japan’s exports should also pick up. For China, though, the ECB expects that economic growth will continue to slow following the refocusing of its economy. It believes that the prospects for India’s economy are positive in 2016.

Economic Trends – Year-Over-Year GDP Growth

%   2014e   2015p   2016p
World   3.4   3.1   3.4
Advanced economies   1.8   1.9   2.1
Developing and emerging economies   4.6   4.0   4.3
Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA)            
Euro area   0.9   1.5   1.7
Germany   1.6   1.5   1.7
Central and Eastern Europe   2.8   3.4   3.1
Middle East and
North Africa
  2.8   2.5   3.6
Sub-Saharan Africa   5.0   3.5   4.0
United States   2.4   2.5   2.6
Canada   2.5   1.2   1.7
Central and South America, Caribbean   1.3   -0.3   -0.3
Asia Pacific Japan (APJ)            
Japan   0.0   0.6   1.0
Asian developing economies   6.8   6.6   6.3
China   7.3   6.9   6.3

e = estimate; p = projection

Source: International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Economic Outlook Update January 2016, Subdued Demand, Diminished Prospects, as of January 19, 2016, p. 6.

IT Market: the Outlook for 2016

The worldwide IT market is at the dawn of a new era, according to U.S. market research firm IDC. It expects IT market growth to decline in a number of emerging economies, notably Brazil, China, and Russia. For a decade, these countries were the driving force in all segments of the global IT market while the advanced economies were already focusing on the transition from traditional technologies to innovations such as cloud and mobile computing. IDC expects that the growth in traditional IT will also slow in the emerging markets and developing economies in the years ahead. It believes that cloud, mobile, and Big Data will offer the main opportunities for growth. In view of that prediction, IDC expects the worldwide IT market to grow just 2.8% in 2016. Hardware spending is expected to increase by about 1%, and software spending by almost 7% (mainly due to software-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service solutions).

In the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region, IDC expects overall IT market growth to decelerate to 2% in 2016. Notably, the IT market in Western Europe is expected to grow just 1% to 2% in the coming years. The IT market in Germany is not expected to grow much above these rates either, according to IDC. The institute believes that IT spending in Russia might recover as early as 2016 and grow 6% as a result of short-term government stimulus measures.

IDC expects the Americas region IT spending to increase 3.7% in 2016. It believes the IT market in the United States will grow at a similar rate and that, with 7% growth, the software segment will again be the fastest to expand there. For Brazil, IDC expects that the government will pursue a strict program of economic reform in the next few years, which could slow growth in the IT market to a rate of 3% or 4%. IDC forecasts that the IT market in Mexico will also grow by about 3% annually in the next few years.

In the Asia Pacific Japan (APJ) region, IDC believes growth in the IT market might reach 2.5%. However, growth rates again are expected to vary from country to country. IDC expects the IT market in Japan will grow by about 3% in 2016. It anticipates that China’s IT market will expand only in the low to middle single-digit percentage range in the years ahead. The IT market in India, on the other hand, might continue to grow by rates at or above 10% a year, according to IDC.

Trends in the IT Market –
Increased IT Spending Year-Over-Year

%   2014e   2015p   2016p
Total IT   4.5   4.9   2.8
Hardware   5.2   5.5   1.1
Packaged software   5.6   6.8   6.8
Applications   6.9   7.3   7.1
IT services   3.0   2.8   3.0
Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA)            
Total IT   3.9   4.6   2.0
Packaged software   4.0   4.8   5.2
Applications   4.5   5.4   5.6
IT services   2.2   1.9   2.6
Total IT   4.2   4.6   3.7
Packaged software   6.8   8.4   7.3
Applications   8.5   8.9   7.8
IT services   2.8   2.8   2.6
Asia Pacific Japan (APJ)            
Total IT   5.9   5.9   2.5
Packaged software   4.5   4.9   8.0
Applications   5.6   5.1   7.7
IT services   5.3   4.6   4.6


e = estimate, p = projection

Source: IDC Worldwide Black Book Pivot V3.1 2015

Impact on SAP

SAP expects to outperform the global economy and the IT industry again in 2016 in terms of revenue growth.

Our 2015 results validate our strategy of innovating across the core, the cloud, and business networks to help our customers become true digital enterprises.

Our innovation cycle for SAP S/4HANA is well underway and the completeness of our vision in the cloud has distinguished SAP from both legacy players and point solution providers. We have beaten our guidance for 2015 on cloud and software as well as on operating income.

In 2015, we have transformed our Company and made it leaner by shifting investments from non-core activities to strategic growth areas enabling us to capture the growth opportunities in the market.

We are well-positioned for the future as reflected in the increase of our ambition for 2017.

We plan to continue to invest in countries in which we expect significant growth, helping us reach our ambitious 2016 outlook targets and medium-term aspirations for 2017 and 2020.

We are confident we can achieve our medium-term targets for 2017 and 2020, assuming that the economic environment and IT industry develop as currently forecasted. Balanced in terms of regions as well as industries, we are well-positioned with our product offering to offset smaller individual fluctuations in the global economy and IT market.

A comparison of our business outlook with forecasts for the global economy and IT industry shows that we can be successful even in a tough economic environment and will further strengthen our position as the market leader of enterprise application software.

Operational Targets for 2016 (Non-IFRS)

Revenue and Operating Profit Outlook

We are providing the following outlook for the full-year 2016:

  • Based on the continued strong momentum in SAP's cloud business the Company expects full year 2016 non-IFRS cloud subscriptions and support revenue to be in a range of €2.95 billion to €3.05 billion at constant currencies (2015: €2.30 billion). The upper end of this range represents a growth rate of 33% at constant currencies.
  • SAP expects full year 2016 non-IFRS cloud and software revenue to increase by 6% to 8% at constant currencies (2015: €17.23 billion).
  • SAP expects full-year 2016 non-IFRS operating profit to be in a range of €6.4 billion to €6.7 billion at constant currencies (2015: €6.35 billion).

We expect our headcount to experience an increase similar to the increase in 2015.

While our full-year 2016 business outlook is at constant currencies, actual currency reported figures are expected to continue to be impacted by currency exchange rate fluctuations.

We expect that non-IFRS total revenue will continue to depend largely on the revenue from cloud and software. However, the revenue growth we expect from this is below the outlook provided for non-IFRS cloud subscriptions and support revenue. We expect the software license revenue in 2016 to be at the same level as in 2015 with SAP gaining market share against our main on-premise license competitors.

We expect that most of the total revenue growth (non-IFRS) will come from the Applications, Technology, and Services segment, equally distributed into software licenses and support revenue growth and cloud subscriptions and support revenue growth. Nevertheless, we anticipate our SAP Business Network segment will outpace the Applications, Technology, and Services segment with a significantly higher total revenue growth rate at lower absolute levels. As such, we expect we will seize a huge market opportunity with continued strong mid- and long-term growth potential.

We continuously strive for profit expansion in all our segments, therefore, we expect an increase in both segments’ profits. The vast majority of the profit expansion comes from our Applications, Technology, and Services segment. Overall, in the SAP Business Network segment, operating profit growth is higher than in the Applications, Technology, and Services segment, but at significantly lower volume.

Across all segments we expect our 2016 non-IFRS cloud subscriptions and support gross margin to be at least stable or to slightly increase compared to 2015. For SAP’s managed-cloud offerings, we still expect negative margins in 2016 which by 2017 are expected to break even.

The following table shows the estimates of the items that represent the differences between our non-IFRS financial measures and our IFRS financial measures.

Non-IFRS Measures

€ millions   Estimated Amounts for 2016   Actual Amounts for 2015
Revenue adjustments   < 20   11
Share-based payment expenses   590 to 630   724
Acquisition-related charges   690 to 740   738
Restructuring   40 to 60   621

We do not expect any Company-wide restructuring programs in 2016.

The Company expects a full-year 2016 effective tax rate (IFRS) of 22.5% to 23.5% (2015: 23.4%) and an effective tax rate (non-IFRS) of 24.5% to 25.5% (2015: 26.1%).

Goals for Liquidity and Finance

On December 31, 2015, we had a negative net liquidity. We believe that our liquid assets combined with our undrawn credit facilities are sufficient to meet our present operating financing needs also in 2016 and, together with expected cash flows from operations, will support debt repayments and our currently planned capital expenditure requirements over the near term and medium term.

In 2016, we expect a positive development of our operating cash flow mainly due to lower restructuring related payments.

We intend to repay a US$600 million U.S. private placement when it matures in June. Additionally, we are planning to further repay our outstanding €1.25 billion bank loan.

By the time of this report, we have no concrete plans for future share buybacks.

Based on this planning, at this point in time we expect we will noticeably reduce our net debt in 2016 and gradually return to a positive net liquidity in subsequent years.

Investment Goals

Our planned capital expenditures for 2016 and 2017, other than from business combinations, mainly comprise the construction activities described in the Assets (IFRS) section of this report. We expect investments from these activities of approximately €450 million during the next two years. These investments can be covered in full by operating cash flow.

SAP does not plan any significant acquisitions in 2016 and 2017 but will rather focus on organic growth.

Proposed Dividend

We intend to continue our dividend policy in 2017 as well, which is to pay a dividend totaling more than 35% of the prior year’s profit after tax.

Premises on Which Our Outlook Is Based

In preparing our outlook guidance, we have taken into account all events known to us at the time we prepared this report that could influence SAP’s business going forward.

Among the premises on which this outlook is based are those presented concerning economic development and the assumption that there will be no effects from major acquisitions in 2016 and 2017.

    Outlook for SAP SE

    The primary source of revenue for SAP SE is the license fees it charges subsidiaries for the right to market and maintain SAP software solutions. Consequently, the performance of SAP SE in operating terms is closely tied to the cloud and software revenue of the SAP Group.

    In December 2015, SAP SE concluded license agreements with affiliated companies granting SAP SE as of January 2016 world-wide distribution and utilization rights of IP held by these companies. This mainly concerns the IP rights of our acquisitions from the passed years: Ariba, Concur, Fieldglass, SuccessFactors, and Sybase. The planned centralization of the IP rights at SAP SE pursues the goal of simplifying enterprise processes as well as of steering future strategic development decisions more efficiently and more directly.

    Against this background and due to the rise in cloud and software anticipated for the SAP Group in 2016 of around 6% to 8% (Non-IFRS, at constant currencies), we expect a very strong growth of SAP SE's product revenue at constant currencies.

    As the granted IP rights are accompanied by royalty payments and IP-related research and development costs, we also expect the operating expenses to rise noticeably. Thus, we anticipate the operating result of SAP SE to be similar to 2015, provided SAP Group achieves its targets set for 2016 and there are no non-recurring negative effects.

    Provided the SAP Group continues to hit its revenue and profit targets, we expect SAP SE to sustain revenue and operating income growth into the medium term.

    We believe SAP SE, the parent company of the SAP Group, will receive investment income in the form of profit transfers and dividends again in the future. The growth we expect from the SAP Group should have a positive effect on SAP SE investment income.

    The outlook projections for the SAP Group in respect of liquidity, finance, investment, and dividend are equally applicable to SAP SE.

    Among the assumptions underlying this outlook are those presented above concerning the economy and our expectations for the performance of the SAP Group.

    Medium-Term Prospects

    In this section, all discussion of the medium-term prospects is based exclusively on non-IFRS measures.

    We expect to grow our more predictable revenue business while steadily increasing operating profit. Our strategic objectives are focused primarily on the following financial and non-financial objectives: growth, profitability, customer loyalty, and employee engagement.

    We are raising our 2017 ambition compared to our outlook previously communicated in 2015 to reflect both the current exchange rate environment and our excellent business momentum.

    Assuming a stable exchange rate environment going forward, SAP now expects non-IFRS cloud subscriptions and support revenue in a range of €3.8 billion to €4.0 billion in 2017. The upper end of this range represents a 2015 to 2017 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32%. Non-IFRS total revenue is expected to be in a range of €23.0 billion to €23.5 billion in 2017. We now expect our 2017 non-IFRS operating profit to be in a range of €6.7 billion to €7.0 billion.

    We continue to anticipate that the fast-growing cloud business along with growth in support revenue will drive a higher share of more predictable revenue. Given the current software license revenue momentum, we now expect the total of cloud subscriptions and support revenue and software support revenue to be in a range of 63% to 65% of total revenue in 2017.

    By 2017, we continue to expect the rapidly growing cloud subscriptions and support revenue to be close to software license revenue and they are expected to exceed software license revenue in 2018. At that time, SAP expects to reach a scale in its cloud business that will clear the way for accelerated operating profit expansion.

    In 2015, we communicated our long term, high-level ambitions for the year 2020. We are not adjusting this long-term ambition at this time. Thus, we continue to strive for reaching the following by 2020:

    • €7.5 billion to €8.0 billion non-IFRS cloud subscriptions and support revenue
    • €26 billion to €28 billion non-IFRS total revenue
    • €8.0 billion to €9.0 billion non-IFRS operating profit
    • 70% to 75% share of more predictable revenue (defined as the total of cloud subscriptions and support revenue and software support revenue)

    By 2020, we expect our business network offering to generate the largest portion of the cloud subscriptions and support revenue. The share of this portion of revenue is expected to be followed by our public cloud offerings. Both of these offerings are expected to each generate, in 2020, cloud subscriptions and support revenues that are significantly higher than the cloud subscriptions and support revenue generated from our private cloud offerings.

    We also strive for significantly improving, over the next few years, the profitability of our cloud business. We expect that the flat or slightly increasing cloud subscriptions and support margin development in 2016 will be followed by further margin increases in the following years until we reach our envisioned long-term cloud subscriptions and support margin targets in 2020. These will continue to increase at different rates: We expect the gross margin from our public cloud to reach approximately 80% (2015: approximately 70%) in 2020. Likewise, we expect our business network gross margin to reach approximately 80% (2015: approximately 75%) in 2020. The gross margin for our private cloud is expected to break even in 2016 and reach about 40% in 2020.

    In a mature state of our cloud business, we expect that approximately 80% of the cloud subscription business will be generated from existing contracts and their renewals and approximately 20% from new business. This is compared to approximately 60% from existing contracts and renewals and 40% from new business in the fast-growth phase of our cloud business.

    We also communicated in 2015 that we aim at further improving the profitability of our on-premise software business. It is our target, from that point in time, to grow, until 2020, our gross profit from software licenses and support by a compound annual growth rate of approximately 3%, leading to an improvement in the software licenses and support gross margin of approximately 2 percentage points.

    Non-Financial Goals 2016

    In addition to our financial goals, we also focus on two non-financial targets: customer loyalty and employee engagement.

    We believe it is essential that our employees are engaged, drive our success, and support our strategy. We remain committed to achieving an 82% employee engagement score in 2016 (2015: 81%).

    Further, our customers’ satisfaction with the solutions we offer is very important to us. We want our customers not only to be satisfied, but also to see us as a trusted partner for innovation. We measure this customer loyalty metric using the Customer Net Promoter Score (NPS). For 2016, we aim to achieve a Customer NPS of 25% (2015: 22.4%).


      Our customers rely on SAP as the trusted partner in their business transformation, not only for providing in-memory technology, standardized on-premise and cloud solutions, and access to business networks, but also for helping them drive new business outcomes and enabling business model innovations. To meet these expectations, we must grow consistently and accelerate the pace of our own business transformation by exploiting new opportunities.

      We have established a framework for opportunity management by evaluating and analyzing four key areas: current markets, competitive landscapes, external scenarios, and technological trends. Additionally, we have delved into customer and product segmentation, growth drivers, and industry-specific success factors. Based on these combined insights, our Executive Board defines our market strategies. Our shareholder value relies heavily upon a fine balance of risk mitigation and value-driven opportunities. Therefore, our strong governance model ensures that decisions are based on return, investment required, and risk mitigation. We rely on the talent and resources within SAP and our entire ecosystem.

      As far as opportunities are likely to occur, we have incorporated them into our business plans, our outlook for 2016, and our medium-term prospects outlined in this report. Therefore, the following section focuses on future trends or events that might result in an uplift of our outlook and medium-term prospects, if they develop better than we have anticipated in our forecasts.

      SAP SE is the parent company of the SAP Group and earns most of its revenue from software license fees, subscriptions fees, and dividends paid by affiliates. Consequently, the opportunities described below also apply – directly or indirectly – to SAP SE.

      Opportunities from Economic Conditions

      Economic conditions have a clear influence on our business, financial position, profit, and cash flows. Should the global economy experience a more sustained growth than is reflected in our plans today, our revenue and profit may exceed our current outlook and medium-term prospects.

      Our midterm planning is based on unchanged market conditions in emerging markets. Should their stability increase again, this would be an upside to our midterm planning.

      For more information about future trends in the global economy and the IT market outlook as well as their potential influence on SAP, see the Expected Developments and Opportunities section.

      Opportunities from Research and Development Traction

      Our continued growth through innovation is based on our ability to leverage research and development resources effectively. We continue to improve our development processes through design thinking and lean methodologies. We are accelerating innovation cycles especially in the area of cloud solutions and engaging more closely with our customers to ensure accuracy and success.

      While speed is a key strength, we also focus on ease of adoption and providing compelling returns. This allows our customers to easily consume technologies and software applications with immediate benefits for their businesses. If we make innovations available faster than currently anticipated, or if customers adopt the innovations faster than currently expected, for example, shifting faster to managed clouds for enterprise resource planning, or shifting faster to our new SAP S/4HANA solutions, this could positively impact our revenue, profit, and cash flows, and result in their exceeding our stated outlook and medium-term prospects.

      For more information about future opportunities in research and development for SAP, see the Products, Research & Development, and Services section as well as the Expected Developments and Opportunities section.

      Opportunities from Our Strategy for Profitable Growth

      SAP strives to generate profitable growth across our portfolio of products, solutions, and services to keep or improve its market position. Our aim is to continue to expand our addressable market to €320 billion in 2020, based on new assets in our SAP Business Network Segment, our new technologies, and the extension of our cloud portfolio.

      We see opportunities in growing product and market areas, such as in-memory computing, cloud, mobile, business networks, digital marketing, social media, Big Data, the Internet of Things, and predictive analytics. In addition to organic developments and tuck-in acquisitions, large strategic acquisitions in particular may boost our revenue and profits significantly. For example, the acquisition of Concur significantly strengthens the value proposition of a business network from SAP by addressing one of the most important enterprise spend categories – travel expenses. Furthermore, SAP seeks to establish new business models and leverage our expanding ecosystem of partners to achieve scale and maximize opportunities.

      Our strong assets in applications and analytics, as well as database and technology, continue to offer solid multiyear growth opportunities as we bring innovative technologies with simplified consumption to our installed base and continue to add net-new customers. Unexpected portfolio growth may positively impact our revenue, profit, and cash flows, and result in their exceeding our stated outlook and medium-term prospects. Specifically, the SAP HANA platform, cloud offerings, and SAP S/4HANA solutions, could create even more demand than is reflected in our stated outlook and medium-term prospects. Further upside potential is possible by higher than expected renewal rates of our cloud solutions.

      For more information about future opportunities for SAP, see the Strategy and Business Model section as well as Expected Developments and Opportunities section.

      Opportunities from Our Partner Ecosystem

      SAP continues to grow and develop a global partner ecosystem. To increase market coverage, we want to enhance our portfolio and spur innovation with the specified objective of increasing the partner revenue contribution to SAP’s overall revenue target. In addition to strengthening our core, we will leverage our entire ecosystem to drive adoption of SAP HANA, cloud solutions, SAP S/4HANA, and SAP HANA Cloud Platform. This includes strategic partnerships across all areas: third-party software vendors, systems integrators, service providers, and infrastructure providers. As a result, we are creating an ever-stronger setup, where SAP, along with our customers and partners, co-innovate and develop new innovative solutions on top of SAP HANA. Should the business of our partners develop better than currently expected, our indirect sales (partner revenue) could grow stronger than reflected in our outlook and medium-term prospects. This may positively impact our revenue, profit, and cash flows, and result in their exceeding our stated medium-term prospects.

      For more information about opportunities arising from our partner ecosystem, see the Partner Ecosystem as well as Expected Developments and Opportunities sections.

      Opportunities from Our Employees

      Our employees drive our innovation, are the value to our customers, and consistently promote our growth and profitability. In 2015, we increased the number of full-time employees accompanied with balanced job restructurings to drive our simplification and growth. We anticipate improvements in employee productivity as a result of our continued endeavors in design-thinking principles. As described in the Employees and Social Investment section, we constantly invest in our talents to increase engagement, collaboration, social innovation, and health.

      To ensure continuous innovation and sustained business success, we need to continuously tap into the global talent pool and bring the best and brightest talent to SAP. To do so, we aim to further strengthen our brand perception in the market and optimize our recruiting experience to emphasize our focus on helping the world run better and improving people’s lives. Furthermore, we will maximize mobile channels and innovative talent strategies to tap into new talent pools.

      Our outlook and medium-term prospects are based on certain assumptions regarding employee turnover and our Business Health Culture Index (as defined in the Employees and Social Investment section. Should these develop better than expected there might be an upside to employee productivity and engagement. In turn, this might positively impact our revenue, profit, and cash flows, and result in their exceeding our stated medium-term prospects.

      For more information about future opportunities from our employees, see the Employees and Social Performance section.

      Opportunities from Our Customer Engagement

      SAP goes to market by region, customer segments, line of business, and industry. We evolve and invest in our go-to-market coverage model to effectively sell industry-specific solutions while increasing our engagement with customers. We focus on the dynamic and fast-changing landscape each industry faces as technology evolves.

      We offer unique services that support a significant return on investment, and continue to actively look at new opportunities to increase the value we deliver to our customers. In 2015, we closely aligned two main organizations responsible for service and support to the Applications, Technology, and Services segment to increase the benefit for our customers. This could potentially lead to an increased level of customer loyalty and higher renewal rates.

      In general, our outlook and medium-term prospects are based on certain assumptions regarding the success of our go-to-market approaches. If the actual go-to-market success exceeds these assumptions, this could positively impact our revenue, profit, and cash flows, and result in their exceeding our stated medium-term prospects.

      Back to top