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3 Top Tech Stocks for 2012

Salesforce.com

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Market Cap: $17.35 billion.

Salesforce.com has not had the easiest of times recently, although the cloud trailblazer is still worth a look over the coming 12 months.

The San Francisco-based firm has enjoyed great success helping companies manage their customer relationships via the Internet. Its stock, however, hit a speed bump in the aftermath of its recent third-quarter results. Investors balked at the company's weaker-than-expected billings growth, pushing the shares to a new 52-week low.

Expectations, though, are still high for the company, both in its seasonally stronger fourth quarter, and in 2012. As a result, analysts see a good entry point into Salesforce's stock, even after its recent rally.

Salesforce, for example, struck an upbeat tone during its CloudForce customer event in New York last week, and experts see upside ahead for the company.

"Management of salesforce.com assured investors that there has been no change in the underlying pace of new business closings," explained Rick Sherlund, an analyst at Nomura Equity Research, noting that the company recently raised its fourth-quarter guidance. "[Salesforce.com] reiterated [at CloudForce] that it is not seeing a change in the economic environment or a slowdown in its business activity."

Moving forward, Salesforce is charging hard around what it describes as "the social enterprise" -- essentially harnessing the power of social networking for the corporate world. The company, for example, recently unveiled its Radian6 social monitoring cloud, which amasses data from the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Other Salesforce offerings in the "social enterprise" space include Chatter, a private social network for companies which is being deployed by Verizon (VZ), GE (GE), Avaya and Toyota.

"Salesforce.com has the potential to be very big in this new market," explained Nomura's Sherlund, who has a 'buy' rating on the firm. "We think the company has robust growth potential as it begins to deliver a much broader product footprint."

"With Salesforce, they definitely seem to be at the epicenter of the cloud," added Pund-IT's King. "They are a company that seems to be at the forefront of new cloud developments -- they are a consistent mover and shaker in that space."

No surprise, then, that Salesforce describes itself as the first enterprise cloud computing company to exceed a $2.3 billion annual run rate, and expects to reach a $3 billion annual run rate in its fiscal 2013.
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