Salesforce Likely to Report Blowout Second Quarter Earnings - TheStreet

Salesforce.com (CRM) - Get Report  shares are up 35% year-to-date to $91.76 ahead of its 2018 second quarter earnings, due out after the closing bell on Tuesday, August 22. 

The cloud company is expected to report earnings of 32 cents per share on revenue of $2.5 billion, representing 31.7% year-over-year growth and 23.7% year-over-year growth, respectively, according to analysts surveyed by FactSet. For the same period last year, Salesforce.com reported earnings of 24 cents per share on revenue of $2 billion. 

Shares of Salesforce traded up 0.82%, or 75 cents, in early trading Tuesday, Aug. 22, to $92.51. 

Bookings for the past quarter are expected to hit $2.17 billion, up from $1.89 billion in the previous quarter. The bookings estimate is higher considering they usually fall toward the third quarter due to seasonality and peak in the fourth quarter. Management guided below Wall Street estimates for billings in the first and second quarter of this year. BMO Capital Markets CFA Keith Bachman wrote in a note on Sunday that he thinks Salesforce might guide booking below consensus for the October quarter while booking estimates for the January quarter could increase. 

With earnings, revenue and bookings expected to grow at a healthy pace, this should be a strong quarter for Salesforce, according to Wall Street analysts. "We believe the company will report upside to key 2Q18 estimates, and more importantly, the stage is set for strong 2H18 stock performance owing to seasonal strength in billings, event-driven catalysts (Dreamforce conference) as well as growing monetization of a variety of newer cloud products," Suntrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Terry Tillman wrote in a note on Friday. 

New customers are continuing to sign on to the new, easy-to-use Lightning edition platform that came out this summer with updated, more customizable features. More than 100,000 customers have adopted Lightning, according to Salesforce. Investors were concerned not enough existing customer would use Lightning because they would need to implement the new user interface, but William Blair analyst Bhavan Suri said he thinks they are signing on at a healthy pace as well. The Lightning platform's customization options should drive up average revenue per user (ARPU), he noted.

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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has confidence in the company's AI project, Einstein. 

Salesforce has also been upbeat about its artificial intelligence project Einstein, which is the product of about $600 million in acquisitions and three years of internal development. The project was announced in September and displayed at the company's annual Dreamforece event in October. In March, Salesforce announced that Einstein AI was available to all its customers across sales, service, marketing, commerce and more. RBC Capital analyst Ross MacMillan said he was similarly upbeat about the project, according to a note to investors sent out on Thursday. 

"We believe there is building momentum around the adoption of Einstein AI technology with more early adopters," MacMillan wrote. 

Operating margins to increase by at least 100 bps year-over-year as Salesforce starts to "lap M&A transactions," according to BMO Capital. "We think the stock can move higher with annual consistent 100-200 basis point consistent margin expansion, with healthy revenue growth," Bachman said. 

Due to the positive cloud environment, as well as Salesforce's new Lightning platform and its growing Einstein business, investors are in good shape for financial years 2018 and 2019, according to Tillman. "Given the confluence of product cycle catalysts and share gains expected in all geographies, we believe the upside potential to our FY19 revenue, billings and free cash flow estimates is pronounced," he said. 

The next catalyst should come in the fourth quarter when the company holds its annual Dreamforce conference that typically includes new product announcements, updates on existing products and new partnership announcements. Last year, the company's progress announced at the conference was outweighed by the rumors that it might acquire Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report . In mid-October following the conference Salesforce told the Financial Times that it was walking away from a bid on Twitter. 

Shares of Salesforce closed up 1.11% to $91.76 on Monday, the day before it reports earnings.