As Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff prepares to present results for the third quarter after the market close on Wednesday, the cloud software company could be facing some distinct headwinds.
During its last call in September, Salesforce.com scaled back its guidance for the third quarter. The company told analysts, who had forecast earnings per share of 24 cents, to expect 20 to 21 cents per share.
Unlike other large tech groups like Apple (AAPL) , Microsoft (MSFT) , Alphabet (GOOGL) , Cisco (CSCO) and Oracle (ORCL) , Salesforce.com cannot expect a massive windfall from a tax holiday on overseas cash, which President-elect Donald Trump supports. Salesforce.com had $1.7 billion in cash at the end of the last quarter, which is modest for a large software company, and it does not disclose offshore funds.
The Trump effect could hinder Salesforce in other respects, too. Money has flowed out of many tech stocks since the election, and into areas like banks and healthcare that could benefit from a Trump presidency. The incoming president has also opposed loosening immigration restrictions on highly-skilled tech workers, an issue that affects all of Silicon Valley.
At its Dreamforce conference in October, Benioff and co-founder and product strategy head Parker Harris discussed the difficulty Salesforce had in finding data scientists and programmers for its Einstein artificial intelligence platform. The company has lobbied for increasing the number of green cars and H-1B visas.
Investors have grown more negative about Salesforce's outlook since the second quarter, Wedbush analyst Steve Koenig suggested in an earnings preview. Salesforce's unsuccessful pursuit of LinkedIn (LNKD) and its $2.8 billion purchase of Demandware are fueling concerns that company is using acquisitions to "cover up decelerating organic revenues," he wrote. Benioff also reportedly flirted with acquiring Twitter (TWTR) before Salesforce investors drove the stock down so far he had to abandon the idea.
On Thursday afternoon, shares of Salesforce were gaining 2.3% to $74.98. Year to date, Salesforce is down about 4%.
Apple, Alphabet and Cisco are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AAPL, GOOGL or CSCO? Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio
Wedbush's Koenig suggested that Salesforce's path to growth is shifting away from landing new customers to selling more services to existing customers.
Guidance for the coming fiscal year will likely be conservative, DA Davison analyst Jack Andrews suggested in a report. "If historical patterns hold, CRM is likely to provide a preliminary revenue outlook for FY2018, which may cause some short-term volatility in the stock," Andrews wrote.
In fiscal years 2012 through 2016, he noted, the company consistently topped its own forecasts. The upside range from 14.2% above the mid-point of guidance in fiscal year 2012 to a modest beat of 2.6% in fiscal year 2016.
The November-to-January quarter is typically Salesforce's weakest and "the worst quarter to own CRM shares," Canaccord analyst Richard Davis wrote in an earnings preview.
The hype around the Dreamforce conference may be to blame for the seasonal dip.
"The most likely thesis is that the run-up to Dreamforce (which occurs in October or early November) creates peak excitement for investors that makes whatever the firm does over the following few months a difficult comparison," Davis wrote. "We are not saying that the dynamic is fair,but we long ago learned that when it comes to stock prices, what is and what should be can take a quarter or two to align."