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Salesforce Stock Down as Analysts React to Disappointing Guidance

Salesforce's revenue and operating margins 'showed healthy upside,' one analyst says, but fourth-quarter guidance was more subdued than expected.
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Salesforce.com  (CRM) - Get salesforce.com, inc. Report moved lower Wednesday as analysts reacted to the customer-relations-management-software provider's weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter outlook.

Shares of the San Francisco company were down nearly 5% to $271.40 at last check.

Salesforce said third-quarter revenue rose 27% to $6.86 billion, helping deliver an adjusted bottom line of $1.27 a share. 

However, the company said fourth quarter profit would slow to between 72 cents and 73 cents a share, shy of Wall Street's forecasts.

Mizuho analyst Gregg Moskowitz lowered his price target on Salesforce to $350 from $360, while keeping a buy rating on the shares, according to the Fly.

The company reported "mixed" fiscal-third-quarter results while "investors were generally hoping for a bit more," Moskowitz said in a research note. 

Salesforce's revenue and operating margins "showed healthy upside," but the fourth-quarter guidance was more subdued than expected, the analyst said. He says the shares "will likely be sluggish near-term."

UBS analyst Karl Keirstead pared his price target on Salesforce to $315 from $330 but kept a buy rating on the shares.

The third-quarter results "lacked the pizzaz" of the prior three quarters, which had delivered material revenue guidance raises and improved margin narrative, the analyst said.

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Keirstead cited the company's "skinny" CRPO beat, referring to current remaining performance obligations. He also noted weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter CRPO guidance excluding Slack, and a weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter-revenue view. 

Salesforce closed its purchase of business-communications platform Slack in July.

Following the 7% post-earnings decline, however, the stock looks "attractively priced" at 8.5 times revenue and 40 times free cash flow expected for 2022, Keirstead added.

Jefferies analyst Brent Thill maintained his buy rating and $360 price, saying Salesforce delivered "solid results."

He said CRPO and the top and bottom lines beat in the third quarter, but he noted that it also guided to fourth-quarter CRPO growth of 19%. That would be a 4-percentage-point sequential deceleration and below Wall Street at 20% due to foreign exchange and MuleSoft headwinds.

Thill said he was encouraged by the strength in the core and the promotion of Bret Taylor to co-CEO, which he sees as a positive given that Taylor has been at the company for five years and "has a strong product focus." 

Deutsche analyst Brad Zelnick said the magnitude of the third-quarter beat and fourth-quarter CRPO guided below Wall Street's expectations, though he highlighted "a significant foreign exchange swing."

"Bottom line, this quarter was solid, perhaps not quite the blowout we saw in" the fiscal second quarter, said Zelnick.

He affirmed his buy rating and $360 target price, saying "our thesis remains firmly intact and we'd be buyers on any pullback."