Updated from 5:41 p.m. EST
torrid growth in new customers slowed sharply in November and December, but the San Francisco-based company expects to meet the sales and revenue targets it set for the fourth quarter.
The news did not get a good reception. In recent after-hours trading, shares were off $1.02, or 6.2%, to $15.40; the stock closed the day at $16.42, a loss of 56 cents, or 3.3%.
In its regular midquarter update released after the bell Tuesday, Salesforce said it added 19,000 subscribers in the first two months of the quarter, 1,000 more than it added in the first two months of the third quarter. But total customers increased only by 6% so far this quarter, compared with a 13% jump in the fall.
In Salesforce speak, subscribers are individuals whose company pays for them to use a Salesforce product; customers are the companies at which they work.
Piper Jaffray analyst Tad Piper noted that the numbers imply an increase to above $900 to acquire a subscriber after several months of decline. And that, in turn, indicates that subscriber churn has increased. "That number needs to go down," he said during an interview.
Piper noted that the company appears on track to reach his target of 222,000 subscribers by the end of the quarter. However, Wall Street was expecting some upside and had already baked a higher number into the Salesforce's share price, he said. (PiperJaffray does not have an investment banking relationship with Salesforce.com.)
Steve Cakebread, the company's chief financial officer, said: "We are pleased with our progress to date this quarter, and our November and December bookings make us confident in the guidance for this quarter that we provided in our third-quarter report."
Cakebread said that total revenue for the January quarter will range from $51 million to $52 million and that the company will make a profit of 1 cent or 2 cents a share.