Salesforce has been a leader in the cloud computing space, carving out a profitable niche using a tool that was little more than a buzzword for most tech firms. That first-to-market status for Salesforce means that it's got a measurable jumpstart over peers who are attempting to move customers over to their platforms. Software-as-a-service is also a more lucrative model for software firms like CRM. Instead of selling a software license and then trying to convince customers to spend big bucks on the next iteration of the software, the cloud model lets CRM charge recurring fees while trickling feature improvements onto the platform. And because integration with customers' systems takes place deep in the Salesforce platform, switching costs are extremely high for businesses to move to rival services.
A solid balance sheet rounds out the picture at Salesforce. The firm carries more than $1.8 billion in cash and investments, easily offsetting $508 million in debt. That's not to say that CRM's financial statements are flawless. Huge marketing costs have consistently eroded profits over the firm's life. While recent losses are self-inflicted for the sake of growth, they're losses nonetheless.
That said, rising analyst expectations are flashing a buy signal for Salesforce this week; watch out for earnings on Nov. 20.BB&T Most investors are fixated on the big banks right now. But they should be turning their sights to North Carolina-based BB&T (BBT), a $22 billion regional bank that boasts 1,800 branches spread across the Southeast and the Midatlantic. Shares of BB&T have rallied more than 43% since I called the firm one of four bank stocks you should still buy last year. There's reason to believe that BBT has more room to run in 2012. >>10 Most Profitable Banks Trading Below Book Value Regional banking names like BB&T have a big advantage in the simple fact that they're banks first and foremost. The temptation of easy profits in tertiary businesses (like investment banking, trading, and derivatives) doesn't exist for these guys, and as a result, they've largely been able to skirt the exposure that crushed the big banks in 2008. In BB&T's case, the retail and commercial banking business has helped to fuel double-digit net margins, even in an environment where rates are near zero. That should set the stage for even more impressive performance once rates normalize a few years down the road.
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