Salesforce.com's (NYSE: CRM) second-quarter results proved 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, reported operating earnings and revenue that solidly bypassed analyst estimates and forecast continued growth.
Salesforce.com said second-quarter operating earnings were 42 cents per share, three cents better than analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters, or 40 percent ahead of the year-earlier quarter. Revenue rose 34 percent to $732 million, about $5 million more than estimates.
As well, the company's deferred revenue, or software that was ordered but not fully installed and in operation, rose 43 percent to $1.34 billion, an indicator of strong demand and revenue that can be billed in the current quarter.
"Our second-quarter revenue growth was outstanding," Benioff said.
Despite the good report, Salesforce.com shares fell 4 percent after the results were announced to $140.50, down $6.27. One reason could be the company forecast third-quarter operating earnings of 31 cents or 32 cents, down from the current period and below the 34 cents estimated for the period ending Oct. 31.
Because the company has an extensive stock compensation plan, it usually reports a net loss each quarter. Indeed, the second-quarter net loss was $9.8 million, or 7 cents per share, compared with $4.3 million, or 3 cents, a year ago.
The leader in sales force automation software, where it competes against Oracle and world's biggest software company Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), as well as private players headed by Workday, Salesforce.com 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 Salesforce.com'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 Ross MacMillan, who rates Salesforce.com 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.
Salesforce.com shares fell $1.85 cents to $146.77 in Thursday trading. They've jumped 45 percent in 2012 and have gained 24 percent in the past 52 weeks.
David Zielenziger is a veteran editor and journalist who has written for newspapers including the Baltimore Sun, Asian Wall Street Journal and EETimes, as well as for...