Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl Likes Facebook, Loves Big Deals Ahead of Earnings Report

Shares of are surging this morning on a batch of analyst reports saying the company closed some significant deals toward the end of its quarter.

Earlier today, Salesforce’s stock price was up by more than 3 percent, though it has now settled a bit, and is up a more modest 1.3 percent, to $127.24 as of 11:30 am ET.

In a note to clients today, Mark Murphy of Piper Jaffray said that Salesforce closed on a deal worth $140 million with a customer in the financial services and insurance industry. Additionally, social network giant Facebook has made what is being described as a “material commitment” to Salesforce recently. “We simply do not observe any Cloud competitors closing $140M transactions, drawing in 10,000 attendees at regional conferences, and winning as much crucial platform business with internet leaders,” Murphy wrote.

Analyst Brendan Barnicle of Pacific Crest Securities, writing in a research note issued to clients today, said he saw similar trends. “ had a very strong finish to its fiscal year,” he writes, adding that it “closed several very large deals with major corporate accounts, including its largest deals ever in the U.S. and Europe. In some cases, these large deals were only Sales Cloud deals, and we see further opportunity for upsell. More importantly, the strength of the corporate business refutes the bear claim that Salesforce has penetrated its opportunity.”

One point of weakness, Barnicle says, were the small and medium businesses, who pushed back against a Salesforce move to transition them to an annual billing cycle. “It sounds like Salesforce was somewhat flexible on billings terms after stating its initial goal of putting most SMB customers on annual billing,” he wrote. “However, the drive to annual billings certainly made it more difficult to close and renew SMB deals.”

And while the strong finish to the quarter is great to have now, it’s going to set up a tough compare with the quarter ending in April, Barnicle writes. In the April quarter last year, billings — a heavily watched Salesforce metric that’s tied to future revenue — grew 57 percent. This year, Barnicle expects only 19 percent growth. “We are a bit concerned that the deceleration in billings will be negative for Salesforce,” he writes. “However, the comparisons get easier in Q2 (July) and Q3 (October), and we are concerned that if investors wait to move past the difficult FQ1 comparison, they may miss the opportunity to buy CRM at current levels.”

Barnicle also raised his revenue forecast on Salesforce to $625 million, and his EPS estimate to 42 cents a share, and reiterated a target price of $157. Salesforce reports earnings on Feb. 23.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald