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Salesforce.com Earnings: Driving Home the Thesis of ExactTarget

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Salesforce.com (CRM) has garnered a wave of buying activity after the cloud-based customer relationship software giant succeeded in impressing Wall Street on both its forecast and second-quarter results Thursday. Shares soared after the results were released in extended hours trading, and the stock picked up where it left off, with shares gaining more than 11% to $48.57 in early Friday trading.

During the company's earnings call, Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff could not emphasize enough that the firm's recently acquired email marketing firm ExactTarget remains a critical part of salesforce.com's growth strategy and helped drive the second-quarter revenue growth. The company revealed during the call that it is becoming less conservative about its outlook on ExactTarget's full-year revenue contributions after closing the deal much earlier than anticipated in July. The company is now giving an estimated range of $140 million to $145 million, up from the previous forecast of $120 million to $125 million announced at the time of the deal.

Salesforce.com closed its transaction with ExactTarget just a month after announcing its agreement to buy the business for $2.5 billion. It was the company's largest acquisition driven by its ambitions to expand in online marketing.

Benioff proclaimed that his ExactTarget message will be "fully delivered" by the time of the company's November 18th to 21st widely-attended annual Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco. The message is expected to get a lot of play at the September Connections Conference in Indianapolis with ExactTarget.

Salesforce.com shares typically get bid higher ahead of the Dreamforce conference in anticipation of next generation product innovation announcements.

"All I am focused on right now is delivering an incredible new version of salesforce.com at Dreamforce, an incredible new version, and that is anchored to the cloud, to mobile and social capabilities. Number two, I am extremely focused on the success of ExactTarget," said Benioff.

The company said Thursday that it is finding new ways to maximize the monetization of its properties. Benioff said the company has simplified its product line into four core offerings : the Sales Cloud, the Service Cloud, the Marketing Cloud and the Platform, which will enable the company to bundle its products more effectively for customers and create "tremendous" opportunities for upgrades. Product features highlighted by Benioff include the human performance capabilities of Work.com; the integrated data capabilities of Data.com; and the integrated campaign and marketing capabilities of mobile, social and cloud-geared Pardot, which had been purchased by ExactTarget in Oct. 2012 and was a key asset that helped drive buyout interest from salesforce.com. CRM ChartCRM data by YCharts

Salesforce.com's outlook and results have been consoling to investors who were growing more and more nervous that its aggressive investment strategy was not translating into sales growth momentum in the face of an increasingly crowded cloud services sector. Salesforce.com's share price performance can best be described as choppy and confusing over the last few months.

Nevertheless, the flurry of buying activity overnight now brings salesforce.com's stock price return to 15.45% year to date. Salesforce.com has outperformed its direct competitors including Oracle (ORCL) and SAP AG (SAP) that are down 4.08% and 7.76%. During the earnings call, Benioff didn't hesitate to provide the software giants with some advice: "companies like Oracle and SAP who have not been able to bring their product lines to the cloud, have not been able to make the movement to social, have not been able to make the movement to mobile, can benefit from alliances with salesforce.com, with our brand lessor, with our innovation."

Analysts remain bullish on the stock. Canaccord Genuity analyst Richard Davis has reiterated his "buy" recommendation on salesforce.com raising the price target to $54 from $51. Davis writes that his view is justified by the company's "upside quarter" with more good news likely on the way from customer events.

UBS analyst Brent Thill also maintains a "buy" recommendation on the stock and raises his price target to $55 from $50. Thill explained that his view was driven by salesforce.com's strong second-quarter across all metrics and expectations of "numerous" catalysts and drivers ahead in the second half of the year. He said that these will include the upcoming ExactTarget and Dreamforce events; synergies with ExactTarget and Pardot; rising average selling prices with the help of the company's new premium Performance Edition that pulls together key technology platforms; and the company's reorganization of package bundling which should appeal to small businesses all the way up to enterprise.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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

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