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FRANKFURT (Reuters)—SAP forecast sales growth and higher margins on Wednesday despite a volatile wider economy but the software maker gave a conservative outlook for 2008 as it expands into new markets.

The world’s biggest maker of business-management software said its operating profit margin should inch up to 27.5-28.0 percent this year from a comparable figure of 27.3 percent in 2007, excluding acquisition-related charges.

But the company said software-related sales growth would slow this year as it integrates a 4.8 billion-euro ($7.1 billion) acquisition and steps up investments in a new proposition for smaller customers.

SAP shares rose 1.6 percent at 31.94 euros by 1107 GMT, off an earlier high of 32.72 euros and outperforming a 0.3 percent weaker German blue-chip DAX index.

DZ Bank analyst Oliver Finger wrote in a note: "Stand alone guidance (12-14 percent) seems to be conservative, but given the difficult market environment we assess this as a positive."

SAP said it expects software and software-related services revenues to grow by 12-14 percent this year at constant currencies — the same guidance it exceeded in 2007 with a 17 percent increase.

Including sales from recently acquired Business Objects and excluding acquisition-related revenue writedowns of about 180 million euros, these revenues should rise by 24-27 percent at constant currencies, SAP said.