NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The much-rumored acquisition of cloud specialistSalesforce.com (CRM) - Get Report hasn't happened yet, and with the company's market capitalization approaching $50 billion, only a handful of appropriate bidders are large enough to absorb the San Francisco-based software giant. But that doesn't mean investors who buy Salesforce shares today can't still make money.
The cloud remains one of the fastest-growing segments in tech. Research firmIDC forecasts cloud-based Big Data and analytics solutions spending will soar over the next five years, growing three times faster than traditional onsite server solutions. And hybrid on/off premises deployments, which are a combination of a public and private cloud solutions, will become a requirement on corporate networks, predicts IDC.
This projected growth, which began almost a decade ago, bodes well for market leader Salesforce.com. And it explains why its, which is up 23% year to date and 33% in the past twelve months, still has a consensus buy rating and an average analyst 12-month price target of $82, 13% above current levels. Assuming the stock reaches its high target of $95, it would return gains of 32% from current prices around $72.
Salesforce has dominated the iShares North American Tech-Software ETF (IGV) - Get Report, which is up 11% in 2015, and it shows no signs of slowing down. So, with rapid cloud growth still to come, it would be a mistake to part with a winner like Salesforce, which has delivered almost 110% stock gains over the past three years.
The company's due to report second-quarter earnings Thursday after the closing bell, and estimates are on the rise. For the quarter that ended in July, analysts on average expect earnings of 18 cents a share on revenue of $1.3 billion, translating to increases of 38% and 21%, respectively. For the full year ending in January, earnings are projected to decline 36% to 71 cents a share, but revenue of $6.5 billion would mark of increase of 22%.
It's worth noting that at 101 times fiscal 2015 estimates, this stock is no bargain -- certainly not when compared to the S&P 500 (SPX) index, which trades at 21 times earnings. But few S&P 500 companies are growing both revenue and earnings at these levels. So until meaningful signs of slowing growth emerge, Salesforce belongs in your portfolio. Despite their apparently expensive price, these shares won't get any cheaper if Salesforce reports a strong quarter Thursday.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.