SAP, the world's leading maker of business software, said on Thursday that it had extended its lead over rivals such as Oracle and PeopleSoft in the US in the first quarter of 2005, winning some of their clients following the merger of the two US firms. SAP said in a statement that its net profit rose by 11 percent to 254 million euros ($333 million) in the period from January to March. Pre-tax profit was up 9.0 percent at 397 million euros on an 11-percent increase in sales to 1.729 billion euros. Software revenues grew by 17 percent to 434 million euros in the January-March period. "We are pleased to report another strong quarter for SAP," said chairman Henning Kagermann. "We have distanced ourselves from other software companies and the gap continues to widen. We continually outperform our competitors and deliver double-digit growth rates," he boasted. SAP's strong first-quarter performance are likely to reassure investors regarding the health of the software sector following the recent profit warning by US rival Siebel. In the all-important US market, SAP was able to lift software revenues by 27 percent to 131 million euros, apparently benefiting from the uncertainty sparked by the merger of Oracle and PeopleSoft to win over some of their clients. SAP said it had been able to increase its US market share to 41 percent at the end of the first quarter from 38 percent at the end of 2004.