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
A series of executive departures at Salesforce (CRM) has spooked investors in recent days, but we're sticking with the Club holding through the turnover and broader economic uncertainty because its enterprise software products remain integral to business in the digital age.
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December 1 was quite painful for Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) shareholders as shares fell by more than 8% during the trading session. Usually, quarterly figures contain a large amount of noise, and such an event would make the share price of any company far more attractive for long-term investors. Unfortunately, this was not the case for Salesforce.
Salesforce's share price has already been in a freefall due to its exceptionally high momentum exposure. However, the more important issue with the company has been its strategy and the major red flags I highlighted back in 2020. All these combined resulted in the company losing more than 35% of its value, during a period when the broader market and the technology sector returned roughly 13% and 8%, respectively.
For anyone who has been aware of these red flags, the recent announcement that the co-CEO Bret Taylor will leave the company after only a bit more than a year on the job should not come as a surprise to Wall Street analysts.
One major pillar of attracting and retaining talent for tech companies has been the amount of share-based compensation. As we will see below, CRM's management has taken this to extreme levels and as I previously warned, it poses significant risks for one of the company's key assets - its workforce.
Although it was largely left unnoticed, on the December 1 conference call the management spent a significant amount of time talking about the challenging economic environment and the 'tectonic shifts' happening within it.
And we're not assuming that this economy gets any better anytime soon. We're just reporting what we see with our customers, the kind of changes they make, when they start to feel these headwinds. We're following our playbook to make sure we're well positioned to gain market share, to increase our profitability, to focus on our operating margin, to focus on the growth of our revenue and be able to continue to invest, especially when the economy recovers.
Marc Benioff - Chair & Co-Chief Executive Officer
Source: Salesforce Q3 2023 Earnings Transcript
It was a rather unusual experience for anyone following CRM as the management usually focuses on the strategy itself as opposed to outside factors related to the broader economy. In combination with the sudden departure of the co-CEO and all other issues that I will highlight below, I believe this change of language is a bad omen.
The recent downturn in both equity and fixed income markets has the potential to make Salesforce's growth strategy obsolete. The reason why I am saying that is because CRM relies heavily on growing through ever-larger acquisitions, and it needs this topline growth to support its sky-high valuation, which in turn is key for the company's stock-based compensation.
This has created a circular relationship between these processes that has worked well during periods of extreme liquidity being provided. However, the risk of a more permanent shift in the monetary policy has now made Salesforce vulnerable.
Although topline growth remains high, without the boost of a new large acquisition, CRM's growth story begins to fade.
Even more worrisome is the pressure for the company to finally achieve acceptable levels of profitability. Unfortunately for shareholders, though, Salesforce remains barely profitable on a GAAP basis and there are solid reasons to not fully rely on non-GAAP figures as a measure of long-term profitability (more on that here).
The management seems to be focused on achieving that, however, the currently provided guidance for non-GAAP margins was not enough to appease investors.
We're raising our fiscal year 2023 non-GAAP operating margin guidance from 20.4% to 20.7%, an expansion of 200 basis points year-over-year, and I expect a lot more, especially with this increased focus we have on expanding our operating margin.
Marc Benioff - Chair & Co-Chief Executive Officer
Source: Salesforce Q3 2023 Earnings Transcript
The strategy to Boost profitability also seems rather generic, with most of the talk gravitating around achieving efficiencies through higher growth. At the same time, gross margin has been declining consistently, which will put enormous pressure on cutting fixed costs over the coming years.
The cash flow statement of Salesforce is also full of red flags for such a large enterprise that is currently a leader in the highly attractive software space.
To begin with, the already low operating profitability results in a razor-thin net income figure due to fading gains on strategic investments. The cash flow from operations figure then relies on the accounting treatment of depreciation and amortization as well as stock-based compensation expenses.
Needless to say that this development is unsustainable over the long term and the pressure on it changing is already high, Salesforce's management has also been focused on improving its receivables turnover in order to Boost its cash flow position.
The bigger issue, however, is the skyrocketing amount of stock-based compensation, which is already more than half of the company's cash flow from operations for the past 12 months.
This in combination with the aggressive M&A strategy resulted in a massive shareholder dilution over the past decade and even the $1,677m spend on share repurchases over the past fiscal year was not enough to fully offset dilution.
Even though Salesforce has created a very strong ecosystem of services, the means to achieve that are flawed. Too aggressive M&A approach and a sole focus on topline growth have now put the company in a tough spot to Boost profitability at a time when the outside environment is turning into a headwind and competitive pressures are rising. The heavy reliance on stock-based compensation also puts Salesforce's ability to attract and retain talent at risk. Investors looking for a low entry point should be careful of further downside, even as valuation has already cooled off in 2022.
Salesforce is losing a number of key execs in the wake of Bret Taylor's departure.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield is also departing, along with some other product-focused execs.
The departures come as Salesforce's growth has slowed and it's facing tough questions.
Salesforce is in the midst of a serious brain drain at the highest levels. Last week, co-CEO Bret Taylor made the surprise announcement that he'd be departing the company.
Shortly afterwards came the news that Mark Nelson, the CEO of Salesforce subsidiary Tableau, and Steven Tamm, a CTO at the cloud tech giant, are also departing. In November, the company also said Gavin Patterson, the company's chief strategy officer who had previously been its chief revenue officer will depart at the end of January.
Then, earlier this week, Insider reported that Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack — the workplace chat app that Salesforce acquired in 2021 for $27.7 billion —will be leaving the company in the new year. Tamar Yehoshua, Slack's chief product officer, is also resigning, as is Slack senior VP of communications Jonathan Prince.
It's not clear if the timing of all these departures is anything more than coincidence: In a memo to employees, Butterfield wrote that his plans to depart have nothing to do with Taylor's, as Insider earlier reported.
Still, it comes at a critical moment for Salesforce and its now-sole CEO Marc Benioff. The company's stock is down some 48% from the beginning of the year, as the larger tech downturn takes its toll on the markets. Salesforce has warned investors that a slowing economy is making it more difficult to close deals as IT spending stalls out, even as investors push Benioff to demonstrate a commitment to improving its profit margins.
And the specific executives who are hitting the exits represent some of Salesforce's biggest bets on the future. Taylor himself was seen as a product visionary who would help Salesforce break into new markets, as seen when he masterminded the Slack acquisition. Indeed, Slack and Tableau represented Salesforce's two largest acquisitions in its history, as it invested in new lines of business.
The departures of Taylor, Butterfield, and Nelson come as Salesforce's strategy comes under the microscope on Wall Street.
With Slack and Tableau, Salesforce already had a lot to prove. Wall Street thought that the $27.7 billion it paid for Slack and the $15 billion for Tableau was far too steep given the company's financial situation. The scrutiny hasn't stopped.
"Growth has been slowing for years," Bernstein analysts wrote in a recent note to clients. "But that has not been readily apparent due to the cadence of large acquisitions which generate a multiyear tailwind to growth due to acquisition accounting."
Taylor, who had been COO of Salesforce before becoming co-CEO in 2021, championed the two as key to a strategy of building the company's platform into an all-in-one tool for sales, to service, to marketing and commerce, to data analysis. Slack would be the "digital HQ" where work gets done, while Tableau helps customers crunch the massive amounts of data stored in the Salesforce platform and turn it into useful insights.
Neither Slack nor Tableau is going anywhere. Salesforce has already said that Lidiane Jones, an executive VP, will take over for Butterfield as Slack CEO. She'll be working with Cal Henderson, Slack's CTO and cofounder, who remains in his role. And Salesforce has said that in the wake of Nelson's departure, Tableau will be rolled more closely into Salesforce's engineering organization.
What it does mean, however, is that Salesforce, Slack, and Tableau are all losing the biggest champions of the integrated product strategy right as the company faces hard questions.
Amid the chaos, however, some on Wall Street thinks there may be an opportunity.
While some of Salesforce's most experienced execs remain on Benioff's leadership team, including CFO Amy Weaver and COO Brian Millham, analysts think Benioff needs to recruit new leadership.
Now could be a good time to recruit talent from a smaller rival or startup, Jaluria told Insider. The relative stability of Salesforce compared to a smaller startup during an uncertain economic environment would be a major draw.
"You need leadership that's focused on the next chapter of Salesforce and the way things should be done, not necessarily the way things have been done from the get go," RBC analyst Rishi Jaluria said last week at the time of Taylor's announcement.
Read the original article on Business Insider
Hard-hit sectors like tech and retail have laid off hundreds of thousands of employees this year. Yet it isn’t just the rank and file that are leaving, as evidenced by the most recent C-suite departure at Salesforce
Salesforce stock (ticker: CRM) ended down more than 7% on Monday, and is trading lower again this morning following news that the founder and CEO of Slack, Stewart Butterfield, has resigned from the company, effective Jan. 31. That comes just about a year and a half after Salesforce closed the purchase of Slack in a $28 billion deal last summer, and just a week after Salesforce announced the departure of its co-CEO Bret Taylor.
A whale with a lot of money to spend has taken a noticeably bearish stance on Salesforce.
Looking at options history for Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) we detected 12 strange trades.
If we consider the specifics of each trade, it is accurate to state that 25% of the investors opened trades with bullish expectations and 75% with bearish.
From the overall spotted trades, 6 are puts, for a total amount of $494,812 and 6, calls, for a total amount of $314,470.
Taking into account the Volume and Open Interest on these contracts, it appears that whales have been targeting a price range from $125.0 to $220.0 for Salesforce over the last 3 months.
In terms of liquidity and interest, the mean open interest for Salesforce options trades today is 1236.0 with a total volume of 1,188.00.
In the following chart, we are able to follow the development of volume and open interest of call and put options for Salesforce's big money trades within a strike price range of $125.0 to $220.0 over the last 30 days.
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|Symbol||PUT/CALL||Trade Type||Sentiment||Exp. Date||Strike Price||Total Trade Price||Open Interest||Volume|
Options are a riskier asset compared to just trading the stock, but they have higher profit potential. Serious options traders manage this risk by educating themselves daily, scaling in and out of trades, following more than one indicator, and following the markets closely.
If you want to stay updated on the latest options trades for Salesforce, Benzinga Pro gives you real-time options trades alerts.
© 2022 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.
‘MSPs are where the real rubber hits the road. MSPs working with Salesforce already understand customer need and the gaps in the coverage. MSPs are still a small part of the overall Salesforce channel ecosystem, but it is the fastest-growing part. Salesforce has an MSP program to support that motion. We felt we should take advantage of the MSP wave,’ says Matt Morris, Odaseva’s vice president of alliances.
Odaseva, a developer of enterprise data protection technology for the Salesforce ecosystem, recently launched its first MSP partner program aimed at helping channel partners provide new services for their Salesforce customers.
Odaseva is an ISV partner in the Salesforce ecosystem with a focus on data lifecycles, backups, and business continuity filling what has become a big gap when it comes to customers working with Salesforce, said Matt Morris, vice president of alliances for San Francisco-based Odaseva.
“Salesforce customers assume their data is protected in the cloud, and it is,” Morris told CRN. “But there’s no backstop if an administrator deletes a file. Also, Salesforce is often set up outside a customer’s corporate IT infrastructure. And the Salesforce platform is unique with idiosyncrasies that we understand.”
[Related: CDI Bets Big On Salesforce, ServiceNow With Candoris Buy ]
The move to build an MSP partner program is important for Odaseva and its channel, Morris said.
“We recognize that every company we go to has channel partners embedded in them,” he said. “The partners understand those customers well. We built our platform as a way for MSPs to add to their toolbox. We know partners are the way to go. We want to make it easier for them.”
While up to 60 percent of Odaseva’s business is touched by or influenced by, the company previously had no formal channel program, and realized that it really does need one, Morris said.
“MSPs are where the real rubber hits the road,” he said. “MSPs working with Salesforce already understand customer need and the gaps in the coverage. MSPs are still a small part of the overall Salesforce channel ecosystem, but it is the fastest-growing part. Salesforce has an MSP program to support that motion. We felt we should take advantage of the MSP wave.”
Odaseva, whose name combines “oda” from the French word “audace,” or bold and daring, with “seva,” a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service,” reflects the French-Cambodian ancestry of the company‘s CEO and founder, Sovan Bin. The company, founded about 10 years ago, in early 2019 received an $11.7 million investment from Salesforce.
Salesforce, and protecting data in the Salesforce ecosystem, is by no means a niche market, said Scott Richmond, Salesforce alliance and relationship lead at UST, a $2.5-billion Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based solution integrator and ISV with a focus on the vendor.
“Salesforce customers are their own data repositories,” Richmond told CRN. “Salesforce doesn’t keep their data. We specialize in healthcare, where there’s almost a breach a week, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. And healthcare companies pay a lot for ransomware or clean-up.”
Salesforce offers a data protection technology called Salesforce Shield, but Odaseva goes far above and beyond the Salesforce offering, Richmond said. “Odaseva is much more comprehensive,” he said.
While Odaseva has the product, it is looking for implementation partners, Richmond said.
“We have strong expertise in this area, and have the necessary resources on-shore and off-shore,” he said. “I can put a team together in three to four weeks to implement a project for a client.”
Odaseva is focused 100 percent on the Salesforce market, Morris said.
“There’s a lot of room for growth in this space,” he said. “Salesforce is a nuanced platform, and so requires a degree of expertise. And it’s hard to find a company of significant size that doesn’t have Salesforce.”
Odaseva’s new MSP program is a global program with no cost for MSPs to enter, Morris said. The company is offering MSPs a straightforward learning path.
“We’re not teaching partners how to do specific things,” he said. “We’re offering a string or processes to help partners support specific use cases for their customers.”
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.”
(Bloomberg) -- Stewart Butterfield, chief executive officer of Salesforce Inc.’s Slack, is leaving after less than two years, another blow to the software giant that has been roiled by an executive exodus in recent weeks.
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Two other veteran Slack executives also will depart, the company said Monday, shaking up the division that Salesforce purchased in July 2021 for more than $27 billion in its largest acquisition.
Butterfield’s resignation follows the news last week that Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor would step down from the post at the end of next month. Butterfield, who was seen as a possible successor to Taylor, also will exit in January, the company said. Both men were credited as lead negotiators in the deal announced in December 2020 that brought the business communications platform into Salesforce.
In a memo to staff, Butterfield said his departure is unrelated to Taylor’s. “Planning has been in the works for several months,” Butterfield wrote. “Weird timing!” Slack Chief Product Officer Tamar Yehoshua and Senior Vice President Jonathan Prince will also leave the company, Butterfield wrote.
Butterfield “is an incredible leader who created an amazing, beloved company in Slack,” a Salesforce spokesperson said. “He has helped lead the successful integration of Slack into Salesforce.” Salesforce, the top maker of customer relations management software, declined to comment on the departures of Yehoshua and Prince. Insider earlier reported Butterfield’s exit.
Lidiane Jones will succeed Butterfield as CEO at Slack, the spokesperson said. Jones most recently served as executive vice president of Salesforce’s experience cloud, commerce cloud and marketing cloud units and worked for Sonos Inc. and Microsoft Corp. before joining Salesforce in 2019. Butterfield was “instrumental in choosing” her as the next CEO, the spokesperson said.
In his memo, Butterfield praised Jones, writing that she “has a deep respect for our approach to product, our customer obsession, and our unique culture” at Slack, and has “enormous credibility inside of Salesforce.”
Butterfield’s exit “is a risk for the company, given other high-profile executive departures in the past few months,” Anurag Rana, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, wrote in a note. “This could put additional pressure on CEO and founder Marc Benioff to assure investors that the company still has a deep bench of leaders that can revive organic growth, which has seen steady decline in the past few quarters.”
The stock fell 7.4% to $133.93 in New York -- its lowest closing price since March 2020. The shares have tumbled 47% this year.
Salesforce is struggling with slowing growth and increasing pressure from investors to Boost profit. The company last week projected revenue would increase 8% to 10% in the current period — which would be the smallest year-over-year gain since Salesforce went public in 2004.
Salesforce also has been working to further integrate other large acquisitions, Mulesoft and Tableau, into a cohesive platform of services. Tableau, which Salesforce bought in 2019 for $15 billion, has seen a similar thinning of executive ranks recently. On Friday, Mark Nelson, the CEO of the unit, announced he would exit the company, about a year and a half after Adam Selipsky, who ran Tableau at the time of the Salesforce’s purchase, departed to lead Amazon.com Inc’s cloud-computing division. Tableau Chief Marketing Officer Jackie Yeaney and Chief Data Officer Wendy Turner-Williams also left in recent months, according to their LinkedIn biographies.
Butterfield, 49, who is a co-founder of Slack, said his time at the company since it started more than 13 years ago has been “a long and wild run,” and, unlike Taylor, he isn’t leaving to return to his entrepreneurial roots.
“Though it may sound hackneyed, I actually am going to spend more time with my family,” he wrote in his memo. “We have a new baby coming in January. Can I tell you something? I fantasize about gardening. So, I’m going to work on some personal projects, focus on health, and try to learn as many new things as I can.”
(Updates with closing share price in the ninth paragraph.)
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