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SAP America CEO resigns

The departure of the company's top executive is only the latest in what can be seen as an employee exodus from the German software business giant.

In what is only the latest in a series of executive departures, SAP said today that SAP America chief executive officer Kevin McKay has resigned.

McKay's departure follows news of shrinking profits at the German business software giant. Company executives described the latest quarter as "challenging," as business costs rose and competition in the market increased.

Long-time SAP executive Wolfgang Kemna will replace McKay as head of SAP America, the company said in a statement. Prior to his appointment, Kemna was managing director at SAP's German subsidiary responsible for sales and marketing efforts as well as a member of the company's extended management board.

Several executives have left SAP, many for U.S.-based technology companies--known to offer hefty stock options to executive employees.

In January, SAP America's chief financial officer, John Milana, left the company to join a business-to-business e-commerce firm based in Pennsylvania.

Other key executives, including former SAP America CEO Paul Wahl and former president Jeremy Coote, left to work for rival front-office software maker Siebel.

In March, SAP dropped two lawsuits against Siebel Systems that alleged Siebel was unfair in its hiring of SAP employees. SAP alleged that Siebel unfairly hired 27 of its key employees, including the president of SAP, the company's senior vice president of Latin American sales, the vice president for corporate communications, and a host of others from the sales, product and technology units.

In an effort to retain employees, SAP recently approved a new stock program intended to provide its top executives with American-style options. As reported earlier, the plan will make 6.25 million shares, or 6 percent of the company's capital, available to about 120,000 "top performers" and high-level executives, SAP said. A four-year vesting period is planned.

SAP competes in the enterprise resource planning market against U.S.-based companies Oracle and PeopleSoft and European firm Baan.