Salesforce made a splash weeks ago with its acquisition of Tableau -- now the early reviews are rolling in.
The enterprise tech giant announced its acquisition of Tableau (DATA) - Get Tableau Software, Inc. Class A Report , which makes data visualization tools, two weeks ago. At $15.7 billion, the deal Salesforce's (CRM) - Get salesforce.com, inc. Reportlargest acquisition to date -- and since then, investors have been parsing out what the acquisition means for Salesforce and its bottom line in the long term. On Monday, Salesforce shares fell 2.7%.
Initial reactions to the Tableau deal were mostly positive. On Monday, JMP Securities circulated a note citing seven industry sources who were unanimously optimistic about the deal. Analyst Patrick Walravens wrote he was "pleasantly surprised" by those responses, which largely overlooked the big price tag in light of the potential for Tableau to unlock Salesforce's large repository of customer data.
Similarly, others called out potential synergies with Salesforce's core products. Among those, CFRA Research's John Freeman cited "clear cross-selling opportunities with Tableau's large, passionate, but, in our view, under-monetized base of 86,000 customer accounts and 150,000 certified users" in a note.
Nonetheless, there's a kernel of unease among some investors that the expensive acquisition is a sign that Salesforce's days of organic growth are behind it.
"They've lit the torch of 'must buy' to continue this hyper-growth, and I think you'll see that continue," said Eric Schiffer, CEO of the private equity group The Patriarch Organization. He pointed out Salesforce's robust pace of revenue growth to date -- which has hovered around 25% on an annual basis over the past few years -- and likened its recent acquisitions to those of Larry Ellison's Orcale (ORCL) - Get Oracle Corporation Report .
An even greater area of potential concern is how Salesforce will execute the deal -- whether Tableau, which has its own dedicated base of customers, will remain siloed off from the Salesforce brand or tightly integrated into its core product suite. On a call discussing the acquisition, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and product chief Bret Taylor likened the Tableau acquisition to that of Mulesoft, which Salesforce purchased in 2018 for about $6.5 billion.
"We always maintain a beginner's mind...we have not only maintained and enhanced the ecosystem that MuleSoft connects to but we've added to it. And we've done some incredibly innovative work to make sure that MuleSoft connects the worlds," Benioff told investors on June 10.
Schiffer added that there are "warning signs" that Salesforce hasn't placed enough of an emphasis on integrating its acquisitions into its core brand. "To me, that's a self-inflicted wound, and dangerous in that it's leaving a lot of the return on capital not realized," he added.
Nonetheless, it likely won't be the last big-ticket acquisition for Salesforce. In a hot M&A environment for firms in the realm of data analytics and management, the enterprise software firm be gearing up for an extended acquisition streak -- a strategy that, given Benioff's credibility thus far, Salesforce could ride out for some time.
"This is the beginning of what will be a significant acquisition run from them over the next 3 to 5 years," Schiffer added.
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