Why salesforce.com, inc. (CRM)’s Price Drop Makes No Sense

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Salesforce.com (CRM)salesforce.com, inc. (NYSE:CRM)‘s earnings announcement didn’t sit well with investors. With its stock down over 6% since sharing its fiscal 2014 Q1 results, you’d think Salesforce had either missed estimates by a mile, provided a poor outlook for the balance of its fiscal year, or both. But this is where things get interesting: Neither occurred. When you look at non-GAAP results (in other words, removing one-time items), salesforce.com, inc. (NYSE:CRM) grew revenue and operating cash flow, and raised guidance for the year. So, what’s the problem?

A few specs
It seems salesforce.com, inc. (NYSE:CRM) has always traded like a growth stock: With a non-GAAP price-to-earnings ratio in the 85 to 90 range, investors and analysts alike have been content to focus on revenue growth and future prospects in its core customer relationship management market and cloud solutions. So salesforce.com, inc. (NYSE:CRM)’s 28% jump in revenue compared to last year, up to $893 million this past quarter, would appear to be a win. Incidentally, the $893 million in revenue beat average analyst expectations for the quarter by $6 million.

Both deferred revenue and unbilled deferred revenue were also up significantly, 30% and 33% year-over-year, respectively. Toss in a 33% increase in operating cash flow and non-GAAP earnings of $0.10 a share this quarter — meeting expectations — and the sell-off of Salesforce shares makes even less sense. And what a sell-off it was, with nearly 21.58 million shares traded the day after salesforce.com, inc. (NYSE:CRM)’s May 23 earnings announcement, compared to its daily average of 5.54 million shares.

After raising revenue expectations for fiscal 2014 to $3.835 billion to $3.875 billion, a 26% to 27% improvement from last year, Salesforce now expects non-GAAP EPS in the $0.47 to $0.49 range for the year, compared to $0.49 average estimates from analysts. The problem? An analyst at Pacific Crest Securities said it all, “The guidance is just in line, and we’re used to seeing these guys raise.”

What’s changed?
Some grumblings you’ll hear relating to Salesforce include its move toward expanding via acquisition in lieu of strictly organic growth. That can be an expensive proposition to be sure, and is expected to impact Salesforce’s GAAP numbers this year by an estimated $86 million.

A legitimate concern for salesforce.com, inc. (NYSE:CRM), just as it’s always been, is growing competition in both the CRM and cloud computing markets. German-based SAP AG (ADR) (NYSE:SAP) and CRM up-and-comer Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and its Dynamic CRM are certainly not to be trifled with.

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