UPDATE 1-Analytics behemoth SAS says aiming to go public by 2024

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By Krystal Hu and Chavi Mehta

July 29 (Reuters) - Data analytics giant SAS Institute Inc, which has been privately held for over forty years, said on Thursday it was preparing for an initial public offering by 2024.

The decision to go public is driven by the need to offer employees stock options to attract tech talent, as well as succession planning to position the company for long-term growth, co-founder and long-time chief executive Jim Goodnight told Reuters in an interview.

The process is expected to take three years to meet accounting standards set by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company said.

The announcement comes weeks after a report that chip and software company Broadcom Inc was in talks to buy the company for over $15 billion.

SAS denied it is up for sale in a letter to employees, and Goodnight declined to comment on the rumors.

"My biggest concern is that the company continues to thrive and move into the future together, not broken up, separated or merged in with some other organization," said Goodnight, 78. "We've got an incredible brand and it needs to stand on its own. The best way to do that is going public."

Cary, North Carolina-headquartered SAS reported $3 billion in revenue in 2020, half of which came from outside the United States. The company said it has long been profitable and hasn't raised any outside funding to date.

While its annual revenue growth has been flat in the past few years, the company is now eyeing 15% annual growth while maintaining its profitability through investing in fast-growing sectors including pharmaceuticals and doubling down on hybrid cloud solutions.

Founded in 1976, SAS provides data and analytics services to customers in 147 countries spread across several industries, including banking, healthcare, retail and manufacturing.

The company's software is used by more than 83,000 business, government and university sites, according to its website. (Reporting by Krystal Hu in New York and Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Sonya Hepinstall)

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