That might spell a slightly lower bar for the cloud CRM software giant, which is far from alone among enterprise software names in getting hammered during the recent tech correction, when its October quarter (fiscal third quarter) report arrives after the bell on Tuesday. On average, analysts polled by FactSet expect revenue of $3.37 billion (up 27% annually) and non-GAAP EPS of $0.50.
For the January quarter -- Salesforce provides quarterly and fiscal year sales/EPS guidance in its reports -- the consensus is for revenue of $3.52 billion (up 23%) and EPS of $0.57.
Here are a few other things for investors to keep an eye on as Salesforce delivers its earnings report and hosts a call at 5 P.M. EST.
1. Billings Growth
Like other growing cloud software firms that bill customers for annual or multi-year subscriptions up-front but record the revenue a quarter at a time, Salesforce's annual billings are easily higher than its annual revenue, and overall a better metric for measuring its sales momentum. For the October quarter -- seasonally a soft one for billings -- the consensus is for billings to be up 19% annually to $2.68 billion.
Billings growth is expected to slow from the July quarter's 27%, as Salesforce contends with tougher annual comparisons. Jeff Marks, lead analyst for Jim Cramer's Action Alerts Plus portfolio, thinks the tougher billings comps are priced in at current levels, giving Salesforce's management the ability to "regain control of the stock's narrative by highlighting recent wins in [the company's] digital transformation initiatives."
2. Unearned Revenue Growth Guidance
Salesforce's billings are calculated by combining its revenue with the sequential change in its unearned revenue balance. Since Salesforce provides annual unearned revenue growth guidance for its next quarter, one can figure out the company's billings expectations for the quarter by looking at both its revenue and unearned revenue guidance.
For the January quarter, a seasonally huge one for billings, the consensus is for billings to grow 22% to $6.8 billion, and for Salesforce's unearned revenue balance to be up 20% to $8.5 billion.
3. The Revenue Performance Obligation
Whereas Salesforce's unearned revenue balance only covers revenue that it has billed for but not recognized, its revenue performance obligation (RPO) covers all of the future revenue it has under contract.
At the end of the July quarter, Salesforce's RPO was up an impressive 36% annually to $21 billion (growth was about 35% excluding MuleSoft). The company's RPO for revenue expected to be recorded during the next 12 months was up 27% to $9.8 billion.
4. Business Segment Growth
Salesforce breaks out its revenue into four product segments: Sales Cloud, which covers the company's mainstay software platform for sales professionals; Service Cloud, which covers customer support and engagement software; Marketing and Commerce Cloud, which covers its e-commerce and digital marketing software; and Salesforce Platform and Other, which covers its platforms for developing cloud apps as well as app integration software firm MuleSoft, which Salesforce bought earlier this year for $6.5 billion.
During the July quarter, Sales Cloud revenue rose 13% to $1 billion, Service Cloud revenue rose 27% to $892 million, Marketing and Commerce Cloud revenue rose 37% to $452 million and Salesforce Platform and Other revenue (boosted by the MuleSoft acquisition, but also benefiting from good organic growth) rose 54% to $712 million.
5. Spending Growth
Salesforce continues investing heavily in sales and marketing (typically a big expense for enterprise software firms), and also hasn't been shy lately about upping its R&D spending as it invests in MuleSoft, its app development platforms, its Einstein machine learning platform and much else.
With MuleSoft providing a bit of a boost, Salesforce's GAAP sales/marketing spend rose 30% during the July quarter to $1.5 billion, while its R&D spend rose 20% to $463 million. For the October quarter, the consensus is for sales/marketing and R&D spend to be up 30% and 23%, respectively.
6. International Growth
Over 70% of Salesforce's revenue still comes from the Americas region. However, the company did report 32% European revenue growth during the July quarter, and 28% growth for the Asia-Pac region.
Salesforce clearly has a lot of headroom to grow overseas, and the company is leveraging Amazon Web Services' (AWS') global infrastructure to help win over international clients who want their apps and data hosted nearby. However, the dollar's recent strengthening is a near-term headwind for Salesforce's international growth rates, and so might the recent choppiness some enterprise tech firms have seen in certain foreign markets.
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