On Dec. 22 , C3.ai's (AI -5.43%) stock closed at an all-time high of $177.47, boosting its market cap to $17 billion. At the time, many investors were dazzled by C3's stellar revenue growth and the disruptive potential of its enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms -- which can be integrated into an organization's existing software infrastructure to cut costs, optimize workflows, Strengthen employee safety standards, and detect fraud.
But today, C3's stock trades at about $12.50 a share with a market cap of $1.4 billion. Investors fled as its growth cooled off and its losses widened, while other red flags -- including its customer concentration issues, the hiring of three CFOs in just two years, and an abrupt shift from subscriptions to usage-based fees -- hinted at an existential crisis.
Those issues also cast doubts on the notion that C3.ai could disrupt entrenched tech giants like Salesforce (CRM 0.75%), the world's top provider of cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) services.
C3's founder and CEO, Tom Siebel, has frequently compared his company to Salesforce, and he once even dismissed the CRM leader's integrated AI tools as "all marketing and very little technology." Yet Salesforce remains much larger than C3. It has a market cap of about $150 billion, and it's expected to generate nearly 120 times as much annual revenue as its tiny industry peer this year. So could C3 still evolve into the next Salesforce over the long term?
Siebel's previous company, Siebel Systems -- which was acquired by Oracle in 2006 -- notably created the first digital CRM platform in 1995, long before Salesforce launched its first cloud-based CRM services. However, C3 is a very different type of company and approaches the enterprise software market in a more flexible manner than Salesforce.
Whereas Salesforce locks users into its walled garden of cloud-based CRM, sales, marketing, and analytics services, C3 provides AI algorithms that can be plugged in to a wide range of software. For example, C3's CRM platform integrates its AI algorithms into Microsoft's Dynamics CRM platform and Adobe's Experience Cloud (marketing, analytics, advertising, and commerce tools) to create an AI-powered alternative to Salesforce. Alphabet's Google Cloud also integrates C3's AI algorithms into its own services. C3 even provides its AI algorithms as pre-built stand-alone applications.
C3 initially charged recurring subscriptions like Salesforce, but it pivoted to a usage-based model earlier this year. Salesforce's subscriptions are sticky, but C3's approach is more flexible and gives customers more options if they aren't willing to commit to subscription-based contracts.
Salesforce went public in 2004. Between fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2022 (which ended this January), its annual revenue soared from $176 million to $26.49 billion, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.3%. It grew so rapidly for four reasons: It established a first-mover's advantage in the cloud-based CRM market, it benefited from the long-term digitization of businesses, it expanded through acquisitions, and it locked in its users with sticky services and subscriptions.
C3 doesn't boast those same strengths. It's carving out a niche market instead of establishing a mainstream one, it's building open software solutions instead of walled gardens, and it doesn't have enough cash to make big ecosystem-building acquisitions yet. It also has a customer concentration issue: It generated 30% of its revenue from a joint venture with the energy giant Baker Hughes last year -- and that crucial deal will expire in fiscal 2025.
To make matters worse, C3's growth is already cooling off. Its revenue surged 71% in fiscal 2020 (which ended in April 2020), but rose just 17% in fiscal 2021 as the pandemic disrupted the energy and industrial markets.
Its revenue grew 38% to $253 million in fiscal 2022 as those headwinds dissipated, but it anticipates just 1% to 7% growth this year as the macro headwinds prompt enterprise customers to curb their spending. By comparison, Salesforce -- which faces many of those same headwinds -- still expects its revenue to rise 17% to about $31 billion this year.
Siebel believes C3's annual revenue growth will "revert to historical annual growth rates" of over 30% in fiscal 2024 "and beyond," but that's a tall order for a company that has repeatedly missed and reduced its own guidance over the past year.
It's highly doubtful that C3 will evolve into a tech titan like Salesforce. Instead, it will likely remain a niche provider of AI algorithms that is tightly tethered to the macro-sensitive energy and industrial markets. Investors who are looking for a long-term play on the digitization and automation of businesses should simply stick with Salesforce instead of betting on a poorly diversified AI software developer like C3.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Leo Sun has positions in Adobe Inc., Alphabet (A shares), and Salesforce, Inc. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Adobe Inc., Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Microsoft, and Salesforce, Inc. The Motley Fool recommends C3.ai, Inc. and recommends the following options: long January 2024 $420 calls on Adobe Inc. and short January 2024 $430 calls on Adobe Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
The city’s largest private employer could continue to downsize its office footprint, executives said in a recent earnings call.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said there will continue to be flexibility for employees who want to work from home, while Chief Financial Officer Amy Weaver said the software company is continuing to evaluate its real estate holdings. Salesforce did not respond to a request for comment as of publication.
Investors decided to focus on the negative during Salesforce's (CRM 0.75%) third-quarter update: Co-CEO Bret Taylor is stepping down effective Jan. 31. Co-founder and co-CEO Marc Benioff will once again be the sole head of the enterprise software giant.
This announcement overshadowed Salesforce's concurrent news that profits will be higher than previously forecast as the company finds ways to unlock efficiencies in the midst of an economic slowdown. But with Taylor deciding to exit, who was seen as a successor to Benioff, should investors move on and sell the struggling Salesforce stock?
To answer this question, let's first consider the Q3 fiscal 2023 quarterly update (the three months ended in October 2022). Salesforce's results were quite good, with revenue increasing 14% year over year to $7.84 billion (versus management's predicted $7.83 billion). For Q4, revenue is expected to increase 8% to 10% year over year, not bad considering many businesses are delaying their spending on tech these days as a sharp economic slowdown looms headed into calendar year 2023.
Also notable is that Salesforce is putting up these growth numbers in spite of the U.S. dollar's record run-up against foreign currencies – a side effect of the Federal Reserve's aggressive path of interest rate hikes as it tries to tame inflation. Excluding the impact of currency exchange rates, total revenue would have increased 19% in Q3. And excluding the further impact of the U.S. dollar in Q4, revenue growth is expected to be up about 11% to 13%.
To illustrate just how disruptive the dollar has been, revenue growth in Europe and the Middle East was 10% in Q3, or 23% excluding currency headwinds. In the Asia and Pacific region (Australia and Japan, primarily), reported revenue growth was 14%, or 30% excluding exchange rates. Ouch!
Exchange rates aside, though, this slowing growth is a departure from Salesforce's track record of delivering at least 20% year-over-year revenue expansion. Instead, the company is focusing a bit more on profitability during these challenging times. And on that front, there was some more good news. Operating profit margin and adjusted operating profit margin are now expected to be 3.8% and 20.7%, respectively, for full-year fiscal 2023 (the 12 months that will end in January 2023). Previously, Salesforce had said to expect operating margin of 3.6%, or 20.4% on an adjusted basis.
During its Q2 earnings update, Salesforce also announced its first-ever share repurchase program, which is a way tech companies return excess cash to shareholders. Salesforce delivered during Q3 and repurchased $1.7 billion worth of stock.
Then there's the matter of Taylor leaving Salesforce, just about a year after getting appointed co-CEO (he joined when his start-up Quip was acquired back in 2016). In a prepared announcement, Taylor said he wants to "return to his entrepreneurial roots," seemingly indicating he has ideas for a new start-up of some sort.
This is the second co-CEO departure. Keith Block, who served alongside Benioff from 2018 to 2020, left to found and head investment firm Smith Point Capital. A revolving door at the co-CEO position isn't exactly a great look.
But why bother with a co-CEO at all? There's a lot of speculation here, but many investors thought that the software innovation-minded Taylor was heir apparent to Benioff, who co-founded Salesforce all the way back in 1999. Getting a like-minded chief executive in the seat that can continue to propel Salesforce higher in this golden age for cloud computing is a must if Benioff has any ideas of retiring from leading his company.
Nevertheless, Benioff being back in sole command isn't a bad thing, either. In just over two decades, Salesforce has become one of the largest software companies out there. The usually boisterous Benioff tends to play coy when asked about future plans on the CEO role, so investors will have to stay tuned for more information.
For now, though, this probably isn't a reason for investors to exit. Salesforce stock is already down some 40% this year with just a month left to go in 2022, clobbered by the bear market along with other technology names. Salesforce's historical focus on growth over profitability is the primary reason for the punishment, but it's making solid progress on stoking higher margins from its sprawling operations. Shares trade for 32 times expected current-year adjusted earnings per share, or 28 times trailing-12-month free cash flow.
Salesforce is still a growing business, it's an integral piece of the software suite used by thousands of organizations around the globe, and the cloud is still expanding at a rapid pace. Salesforce stock isn't cheap, but Benioff's empire is a clear leader in its space and is worth hanging on to as the economy works through its pandemic-related issues.
New York CNN Business —
Tech stocks have taken a nasty tumble this year, but some are doing even worse than others. Exhibit A: software giant Salesforce.
Shares of Salesforce (CRM) have plunged about 40% so far in 2022. That makes it the second-worst performer in the Dow, trailing only chip leader Intel (INTC). Salesforce (CRM) has lagged the performance of top cloud software rivals such as Microsoft (MSFT), Germany’s SAP (SAP) and Oracle (ORCL).
Salesforce isn’t really doing all that badly. In fact, the company reported sales growth of 22% from a year ago back in August, but it also cut its revenue and profit forecasts at the time.
Salesforce said it now expects earnings per share of about $1.20 to $1.21 for this quarter and sales of $7.82 billion to $7.83 billion. Analysts had been expecting earnings of $1.29 a share and revenue of nearly $8.1 billion.
So is Salesforce, led by co-CEOs Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor, due for a comeback in 2023? Or will the company remain in Wall Street’s penalty box as it absorbs and integrates a series of expensive acquisitions over the past few years?
Salesforce has spent nearly $50 billion since 2018 to buy application software company MuleSoft, data visualization software leader Tableau and workplace productivity suite Slack. The Slack deal cost Salesforce about $28 billion.
Investors will get an update on how all these deals are panning out when Salesforce reports its latest earnings after the closing bell Wednesday. Analysts are predicting that sales will be up 14% from a year ago but profits will fall slightly.
Salesforce president and chief financial officer Amy Weaver conceded during an analyst meeting in September that “we have seen increased risks and uncertainties” in recent months. But she stressed that demand for the company’s software remains strong.
A majority of Wall Street analysts remain bullish on Salesforce. According to data from Refinitiv, 40 of the 50 analysts that cover the company have a “buy” rating on the stock. (The remaining 10 have a “hold.” There are no “sell” recommendations.)
And the consensus price target for the stock is nearly $216 a share, 40% higher than current levels.
Still, analysts are likely to have questions about what’s next for Slack under Salesforce’s ownership. Microsoft has stepped up its own competitive efforts versus Slack with its Teams product.
“Microsoft Teams continues to be the gorilla in the room, indicating that existing customers of Salesforce have been less responsive to picking up Slack,” said Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager with Synovus Trust Company, in a report. “Mounting competition from Teams and increasing pricing pressure create some headwinds.”
Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) shares took it on the chin Thursday, and fell more than 10% as investors showed displeasure with the cloud-based business software company's outlook, and the surprise resignation of co-Chief Executive Bret Taylor.
Taylor, who had been sharing Salesforce's (CRM) top job with company founder Marc Benioff since November 2021, will officially step down at the end of January 2023. Speaking on a conference call late Wednesday, Taylor said he would return to his "entrepreneurial roots", but didn't say anything more about his plans.
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said Taylor was "one of the mainstays in the Salesforce (CRM) strategy," and that Wall Street would view his departure as "a shocker".
With Taylor leaving Salesforce (CRM), Ives said that it wouldn't be surprising to see Benioff "potentially getting more aggressive on M&A" in the cloud sector.
"This is all about the battle versus Microsoft for market share in the cloud and collaboration space," Ives said.
Ives left his outperform rating on Salesforce's (CRM) stock unchanged, but took down his price target from $215 a share to $200.
In addition to Taylor's departure, Salesforce (CRM) also deal with negative reaction to a mixed fiscal fourth-quarter forecast. The company said it expects to earn between $1.35 to $1.37 a share, excluding one-time items, on revenue in a range of $7.93B to $8.03B. Wall Street analysts had previously forecast Salesforce (CRM) to earn $1.34 a share, on $8.03B in sales.
Stifel analyst Parker Lane called Salesforce's (CRM) fiscal fourth quarter "critical", and that the company's outlook, and larger economic dynamics "make it more challenging to provide an accurate picture" around its full fiscal year. Lane maintained his buy rating on Salesforce (CRM), but trimmed his price target to $175 a share from $185.
Along with Taylor's resignation, and Salesforce's (CRM) outlook, the company also reported third-quarter results that topped analysts' estimates.
Cestrian Capital Research said that despite Salesforce's (CRM) mixed outlook, comments from Benioff suggest he sees easier times ahead for the company.
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Veeam is also releasing a FREE version of this solution: Veeam Backup for Salesforce Community Edition. Community Edition provides fully functional FREE backup and recovery of Salesforce data for organizations with 50 Salesforce user licenses or less.
Veeam Backup for Salesforce is a separate standalone product that is a new addition to the Veeam Platform. Available today from our 35,000+ technology partners, it’s sold in one- to five-year annual subscriptions per user. Veeam is currently offering two 12-month introductory packages:
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Comments on the News
"With so many companies’ employees now working in a hybrid model, protecting cloud and SaaS data is more important than ever," said Danny Allan, CTO and senior vice president of Product Strategy at Veeam. "In fact, the Veeam Salesforce Protection Trends Report 2022 showed that 97% of respondents understand the criticality and need to protect top SaaS applications like Salesforce and Microsoft 365 data, yet backup of these applications has historically been the most overlooked by IT, resulting in vulnerabilities, security risks, data loss and corruption. In truth, there is a shared responsibility between any cloud application and the business using SaaS applications — but it is the company’s responsibility to be in control of their data. With our NEW Veeam Backup for Salesforce, we’re ready to support our customers and partners to ensure their business is reliably protected with intelligent backup powered by Salesforce APIs."
"Veeam Backup for Salesforce is a welcome addition to AppExchange, as they power Digital Transformation for customers by providing the ability to back up and recover Salesforce data and metadata in the cloud and on-premises," said Woodson Martin, GM of Salesforce AppExchange. "AppExchange is constantly evolving to connect customers with the right apps and experts for their business needs."
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"There is no denying the fact that there is no state of absolute data protection. Salesforce backup is another superlative initiative from Veeam. If critical information is safe, the better it is for any organization. I am personally immensely excited, as Veeam Backup for Salesforce will allow smooth integration scenarios and integrity of metadata." – Aleh Sadaunichy, Infrastructure Solutions Architect, Lyreco
About Salesforce AppExchange
Salesforce AppExchange, the world’s leading enterprise cloud marketplace, empowers companies, developers and entrepreneurs to build, market and grow in entirely new ways. With more than 7,000 listings, 10 million customer installs and 117,000 peer reviews, AppExchange connects customers of all sizes and across industries to ready-to-install or customizable apps and Salesforce-certified consultants to solve any business challenge.
Salesforce, AppExchange and others are among the trademarks of salesforce.com, inc.
About Veeam Software
Veeam® is the leader in Modern Data Protection. The company provides backup, recovery and data management solutions through a single platform for Cloud, Virtual, Physical, SaaS and Kubernetes environments. Veeam customers are confident their apps and data are protected from ransomware, disaster and harmful actors and always available with the most simple, flexible, reliable and powerful platform in the industry. Veeam protects 450,000 customers worldwide, including 81% of the Fortune 500 and 70% of the Global 2,000. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, with offices in more than 30 countries, Veeam’s global ecosystem includes 35,000+ technology partners, resellers and service providers and alliance partners. To learn more, visit https://www.veeam.com or follow Veeam on LinkedIn @veeam-software and Twitter @veeam.
View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20221130005054/en/
Director, Global Public Relations
Heidi Monroe Kroft, 614-339-8200 x8309
New York CNN Business —
Enterprise tech giant Salesforce said Wednesday that its co-CEO and Vice Chair Bret Taylor will step down from his roles. Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff, who had been co-CEO alongside Taylor, will continue running the company and serving as board chair, the company said in a news release.
Taylor had worked at Salesforce (CRM) for six years, most recently as president and COO before being elevated to co-CEO last November. He will officially exit his position on January 31, 2023. Benioff, in a statement, called Taylor’s decision to step down “bittersweet.”
“After a lot of reflection, I’ve decided to return to my entrepreneurial roots,” Taylor said in a statement. “Salesforce has never been more relevant to customers, and with its best-in-class management team and the company executing on all cylinders, now is the right time for me to step away.”
Prior to Salesforce, Taylor founded and led collaboration platform Quip, which Salesforce acquired for $750 million in 2016. Taylor also worked as chief technology officer at Facebook during the company’s IPO.
Taylor’s move comes at a rocky time for Salesforce, whose shares have fallen around 40% since the start of this year amid the economic downturn. The announcement coincided with Salesforce’s third quarter earnings report, in which the company said it expected fourth quarter revenue at the low-end of analysts’ expectations.
Salesforce’s stock fell more than 6% in after-hours trading following the earnings and leadership change announcements.
Taylor also had a busy year outside Salesforce. As the former chair of Twitter’s board of directors, he was in charge of leading the company through Elon Musk’s tumultuous takeover deal and litigation. Musk officially closed his $44-billion deal to buy the company last month and quickly dissolved the board of directors.
Salesforce cofounder and co-CEO Marc Benioff speaks during the grand opening of the Salesforce Tower, the tallest building in San Francisco, Calif., Tuesday, May 22, 2018.
Karl Mondon | Bay Area News Group | Getty Images
Salesforce reported earnings and revenue on Wednesday that beat analyst expectations. It also announced that co-CEO Bret Taylor is stepping down. CEO and Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff will the be sole person in charge of the company.
Salesforce stock fell over 6% in extended trading.
Here's how the company did versus Refinitiv consensus estimates for the quarter ending in October:
Salesforce said it expected between $7.9 billion to $8.03 billion in revenue in the company's fourth fiscal quarter, lower at the midpoint than analyst expectations of $8.02 billion in sales in the fourth quarter. The company also said it would take a $900 million hit in sales because of foreign currency effects.
Salesforce's total revenue increased 14% year-over-year. Last quarter, Salesforce trimmed its year-end estimates for both revenue and earnings, citing a weaker economic cycle. It reaffirmed those estimates on Wednesday.
Salesforce said that its operating cash flow came in at $313 million for the quarter, which was a decrease of 23% year-over-year.
Subscription and support revenue, which includes the company's flagship Sales Cloud software and comprises the majority of the company's sales, came in at $7.23 billion, which was up 13% year-over-year.
The Platform and Other category that includes Slack reported $1.51 billion in sales, an 18% increase year-over-year.
Salesforce spent $1.7 billion on share repurchases during the quarter, the company said.
Bret Taylor, co-chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., right, and Marc Benioff, co-chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., wear rabbit ears during a keynote at the 2022 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.
Marlena Sloss | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Taylor's departure will leave founder Marc Benioff as the sole CEO at the tech giant.
Salesforce beat analyst estimates for third-quarter profit and revenue but said it expected between $7.9 billion to $8.03 billion in revenue in the company's fourth fiscal quarter, lower at the midpoint than analyst expectations of $8.02 billion in sales.
The company said it would take a $900 million hit in sales because of foreign currency effects. And operating cash flow fell 23% year-over-year to $313 million for the quarter.
Is "something more than macro pressuring Salesforce's growth?" Morgan Stanley analysts questioned in a note to investors. The firm lowered its Salesforce price target from $273 to $250.
The analysts said the "surprises were more negative than positive," citing Benioff's future solo CEO status, possible single-digit subscription revenue growth for fiscal year 2024 and growing margin compression.
Benioff, in an interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer, called Taylor's departure a "gut punch."
"We have to let him be free, let him go, and I understand, but I don't like it," the billionaire said on an earnings call. Taylor was appointed co-CEO and vice chair in November 2021, having previously served as president and chief operating officer.
Taylor was also chair of the board of Twitter before billionaire Elon Musk took the company private. Taylor joined Salesforce in 2016 when his startup, Quip, was acquired by Benioff's company.
Shares of Salesforce are down over 42% year-to-date.