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Salesforce Demands Patience from Investors

Stocks in this article: CRM ET ORCL

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Salesforce.com (CRM) shares have been sitting around half a percentage point below its levels from last Tuesday when it announced its purchase of digital marketing firm ExactTarget (ET).

This, as the market remains in 'wait and see' mode with regard to the wisdom of the deal.

Granted, it was the company's biggest purchase ever, leading to some jitters, especially since its acquisitions of Radian6 and Buddy Media over the last two years have yet to prove their true worth in the marketing space. It cost salesforce, the largest maker of online customer-management software, $33.75 a share, or a 52% premium to ExactTarget's closing price last Monday to buy the company. That's 6.6 times the median Wall Street consensus revenue target for ExactTarget for 2013, according to Morningstar.com.

Salesforce's second-largest purchase ever was Buddy Media, bought last June following salesforce's purchase of Radian6 in March 2011. The progress of its integration into salesforce has been watched closely amid reports of layoffs at Radian6 and $20 million in net losses at Buddy Media in the first half of 2012.

What hasn't been noted as frequently regarding these purchases is salesforce's outstanding organic revenue growth of over 30% each year in the two years since it bought Radian6 and Buddy Media. It was a growth rate that no other company of salesforce's size was able to match during that period and went to show that the integrations of Radian6 and Buddy Media have generally been seamless. Salesforce's growth did moderate this year, but so did the rest of the software sector in the first quarter, given that businesses were pacing their spending amid continued global economic uncertainties.

Radian6 and Buddy Media may not have taken off yet for salesforce, but in time they are expected to shine, not individually, but as part of a larger group of comprehensive offerings that includes ExactTarget to cater to salesforce's corporate marketing department and chief marketing officer clientele. The goal is a smooth integration of ExactTarget assets with Radian6's social media monitoring and analytics functionalities, Buddy Media's social marketing and campaign capabilities and salesforce's core sales application business so that salesforce can solidify its presence in the rapidly transforming marketing space.

Given that it will still be months before the ExactTarget deal wraps up, Brian Schwartz, a senior software analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in San Francisco, estimates that it will take up to 12 months for investors to even begin to feel the impact of this purchase. But if salesforce's acquisition selections over the last two years prove to be astute and are able to reaccelerate the company's growth back to 30%, the stock could rise 25% to 50% from current levels, according to Schwartz.

"I agree they likely overpaid for ExactTarget, but they had no choice after they telegraphed to the market that they were going to buy a large marketing company," Schwartz said in an email. "It was a buy versus build decision. They were missing these technologies and they paid up to scale the business faster than if they built it themselves."

Following Oracle's (ORCL) deal last December to buy marketing automation software vendor Eloqua, an important partner in salesforce.com's ecosystem, Wall Street knew right away that salesforce was going to respond quickly with the search for the market automation and analytics pieces missing from its arsenal, Schwartz said.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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