Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella has made some bold moves since taking over the world's largest software company last year. But nothing like a $50 billion-plus acquisition.
At least one analyst sees it as a real possibility.
Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing people with knowledge of the matter, that Salesforce.com hired financial advisors upon being approached by potential buyers. While much of the speculation immediately turned to rival Oracle, Alex Zukin of investment bank Stephens says Microsoft makes the most sense.
Nadella has made cloud computing his No. 1 priority as CEO, and even projected at a company conference this week that Microsoft could reach $20 billion in cloud revenue by 2018, up from a current annualized rate of $6.3 billion. The centerpiece of growth is Azure, the cloud hosting platform that competes with Amazon Web Services.
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Microsoft and Salesforce tightened their relationship in December, making it easier to run Salesforce on Windows Mobile phones and in Office. Owning Salesforce would enable Nadella to control the entire cloud suite.
"Microsoft is trying to be the operating system across business, consumer and the Internet of Things," said Zukin, who has an "overweight" rating on Salesforce and doesn't officially cover Microsoft or Oracle. "They have the platform and productivity apps, but they really don't have the killer enterprise app."
Salesforce shares jumped 12 percent to $74.65 on Wednesday after the report surfaced, lifting the San Francisco-based company's stock market value close to $49 billion. The stock was down more than 3.5 percent midmorning Thursday. Microsoft is valued at $397 billion and Oracle is worth $195 billion.