2Q Earnings Preview: Benioff’s Cloud Strategy Stays Hot

  @DavidZie on
Marc R. Benioff – Salesforce
Marc Benioff, the chairman, CEO and founder of online CRM software company, is ranked 10th in the list of top 50 American donors. He donated $100 million in 2010, pledging the amount to the University of California at San Francisco Children’s Hospital for a new building.'s (NYSE: CRM)'s second-quarter results are expected to show that its strategy of adapting its software-as-a-service model to the increased use of the cloud by enterprises can pay off handsomely for investors.

The San Francisco-based software giant founded by Marc Benioff, 47, a former senior VP or Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL), the No. 1 database developer, is expected to report operating earnings of 39 cents a share, a 29 percent hike over the year-earlier's 30 cents, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters said. Revenue for the period ended July 31 is expected to rise 33 percent to $728.3 million.

The leader in sales force automation software, where it competes against Oracle; Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), the world's biggest software company, as well as private players headed by Workday, has also been moving into the social media sphere.

Last week, it closed the $689 million acquisition of private Buddy Media, which allows employees to post marketing items and create fan pages on Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), the No. 1 social networking site.

As well, the company introduced new business networking software for its Chatter service dubbed Salesforce Communities which companies including General Electric Corp. (NYSE: GE) said they'll deploy for their staff. GE Capital said it would tap 50 "custom communities" where its employees can interact with customers.

Analysts such as Scott Kessler of Standard & Poor's, say the social media push coupled with's longtime strategy should enable to it "post growth exceeding that of the enterprise software area." He ranks the shares a "hold" with a price target of $140.

Jefferies analyst RossMacMillan, who rates a "buy" set a target of $150 for the shares, in part due to its acquisitions, moves to serve enterprise customers better and because its daily service transactions appear to be mounting steadily. He estimates they reached nearly 56 million a day, up 56 percent. shares fell 25 cents to $148.37 in Thursday trading. They've jumped 46 percent in 2012 and have gained 25 percent in the past 52 weeks.

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