Software maker SAP plans big Middle East push

March 12, 2012 - 2:05 PM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Business software maker SAP AG laid out plans Monday to spend an additional $450 million across the Middle East and North Africa over four years, hoping to tap into growth in the region.

Company executives told reporters in the Mideast commercial hub Dubai that as part of the expansion plan, they intend to recruit more than 500 new employees, in addition to the roughly 300 in the region now.

"The house is in order," Chief Financial Officer Werner Brandt said of the company's regional operations. "(There are) good growth rates already. Now we'll accelerate this."

SAP is one of the world's biggest business software makers. It develops applications such as those used for payroll and for managing relationships with customers and suppliers, as well as mobile and data-analysis software.

The Walldorf, Germany-based company has operated in the Middle East since 2007, following its acquisition of a local distributor.

Its Mideast expansion plans call for several new offices and increased Arabic-language and country-specific offerings. It also intends to set up a regional training and development institute to certify 2,000 new computer consultants — IT professionals trained to work with SAP customers.

Sam Alkharrat, the company's managing director for the region, said the past year's Arab Spring uprisings had little direct effect on SAP's business.

"What we do see, however, is it did affect the sentiment across the region," prompting some customers to delay projects or expansion plans, he said.

Further down the road, he predicted the unrest could benefit business software makers such as SAP that supply both companies and governments.

"In the mid to long term, we believe ... governments are going to drive for higher levels of transparency, which means they're going to deploy better systems," Alkharrat said.