Salesforce shares face plant despite beating analyst expectations

Salesforce earnings came out today! They’re not great, either, and it looks like a weak outlook for the company’s third quarter is doing some damage to its shares, which were down as much as 8 percent.

For a company that literally defined the phrase “software as a service” — basically, running your business online — and one that’s had a decent year (shares are about flat), today’s numbers apparently don’t look very good for Wall Street. Salesforce has been aggressively spending on acquisitions, buying Demandware for $2.8 billion and Quip for $750 million earlier this year. Whether this will keep shareholders happy is predicated on that strategy being a healthy one to add to Salesforce’s growth, and while these acquisitions only recently happened, it looks like Wall Street may be having some doubts about Salesforce’s future.

Here’s the quick scorecard:

  • Revenue of $2.04 billion, an increase of 25 percent year-over-year (beat — analysts were looking for $2.02 billion in revenue)
  • Earnings of 24 cents per share (beat — analysts were looking for 22 cents per share)
  • Guidance of $2.11 billion to $2.12 billion for Q3 (miss — analysts were looking for $2.13 billion)
  • Shares are down more than 8 percent in extended trading

That share drop might not seem like a large number, but for a company worth tens of billions of dollars, a 5 percent slide can easily mean erasing more than $2 billion in value from the company. If it’s going to continue making aggressive acquisitions, it has to keep that share price healthy in order to make the pitch that the companies are getting their money’s worth when they make their sales. For any company that’s recently been bought by Salesforce — and there have been a lot — with shares as part of the deal, employees are watching their value drop in real time.

It looks like that last part about missing slightly on guidance was not a happy data point with investors. This is still the first time the company has brought in $2 billion in revenue in a single quarter, but it’s not enough to keep its run going after aggressively spending on new businesses and talent. Shares of Salesforce are up more than 30 percent in the past two years, but for 2017 they’ve been mostly flat.

And, there’s also this:

With Salesforce under attack from literally all sides, it’s had to get creative — and that means pulling out the checkbook. Ultimately beaten by Microsoft with a $26.2 billion price tag, Salesforce made aggressive bids for LinkedIn, which would give itself probably one of the largest customer acquisition channels on the planet. It also shelled out $750 million for Quip, an online collaboration tool, that increasingly brings it into competition with online collaboration tools companies. (Oh, hey: Box also reported earnings today, and they’re not great!).

Salesforce’s core business is increasingly finding itself in competition with other companies that are choosing to specialize in one area of its core business (like Zendesk in its customer service tools), where those companies try to aggressively outperform Salesforce’s all-in-one tools. So it has to invent new ways to continue driving its revenue growth in order to keep investors happy, and that means inventing new businesses or — in the past year in Salesforce’s case — spending billions of dollars on potential new businesses.

Update: The share price is continuing to fall, now down more than 8 percent in extended trading.

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