'Doubtful' Microsoft will buy Salesforce: Analysts

Despite reports that Microsoft is interested in buying Salesforce.com, Oracle is still the most likely buyer of the cloud services firm if reports of buyout talks are indeed true, analysts said Wednesday.

Shares of Salesforce shot higher Tuesday afternoon amid reports that Microsoft was considering a bid for the company.

Microsoft declined to comment. Salesforce said it does not comment on rumors or speculation.

"Whether Microsoft would make a serious bid, I'm more doubtful. I think Oracle probably makes the most sense," Rick Sherlund, director of technology research at Nomura Securities, said on CNBC's "Squawk Box."

No deal is imminent, according to Bloomberg. Last week, Bloomberg reported that Salesforce hired financial advisors after being approached by potential buyers. Industry watchers have since speculated that Oracle is the company behind the initial reported bid.

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Sherlund ticked off a list of reasons why Oracle is the more likely suitor: It's a better strategic fit, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff used to work for Oracle Executive Chairman Larry Ellison, and Oracle has excess sales capacity that would help it do a deal.

FBR Capital Markets' Samad Samana also believes Oracle is the most likely bidder.

However, he and Sherlund said a deal would make sense for both Oracle and Microsoft.

"There's not any type of transformative acquisition in the cloud that you can do that's bigger and more marquee than Salesforce," Samana told "Squawk Box."

Microsoft has placed increased emphasis on cloud computing during CEO Satya Nadella's tenure. The company reported last month that its cloud business grew 106 percent year over year in its most recent full quarter.

Nadella last week projected that Microsoft could hit $20 billion in cloud revenue by 2018, a leap from the current annualized rate of $6.3 billion.

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"Satya Nadella, he has a vision for the cloud," Samana said. "They've given analysts a peg out there, and what better way to get there than acquiring Salesforce.com, which would make them an even more robust enterprise application provider?"

The acquisition would also block Amazon, the dominant player in cloud computing infrastructure, from consolidating its lead through a purchase of Salesforce.com's platform.

Trading in Salesforce was briefly halted around 3 p.m. EDT Tuesday with the stock up 6 percent after Bloomberg reported that the software giant was evaluating a bid. Another company previously approached Salesforce about a potential bid, the news service said, citing sources.

SALESFORCE CEO BENIOFF KEYNOTE
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Benioff may not necessarily be ready to sell the company he founded, Samana said.

"I think Marc Benioff has a vision of what he wants to accomplish, and I don't think he's quite done cementing what he wants to do," Samana said.

Salesforce has a market cap of about $48 billion, compared with Microsoft's roughly $385 billion. In December, the companies tightened their partnership, making it easier to use Salesforce on Windows Mobile phones and in Office.

That close relationship, as well as Benioff's focus on customer experience, could influence his decision on whether to accept a deal, Samana said.

"If they can be more productive and more valuable with his customers being with Microsoft and more tightly integrated, I think it's something he would certainly consider because at the end of the day, they're a customer company," he said.

Salesforce shares ended Tuesday up 1.6 percent, while Microsoft fell 1.3 percent. Shares of Salesforce were up more than 1.5 2 percent in premarket trading Wednesday. (Click here for Salesforce's latest price.)

Disclosure: Samana and Sherlund do not own shares of Salesforce.com. FBR Capital Markets holds greater than a 1 percent share in the stock. Nomura does not. Neither firms provide investment banking services to Salesforce.com.

—CNBC's Ari Levy contributed to this report