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Salesforce stock hits record as cloud keeps taking cash from incumbents

Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc.

As traditional business computing companies struggle in the transition to the cloud, investors are piling into Salesforce.com.

The provider of web-based sales and marketing software closed at a record $82.75 on Tuesday and was up another 1.25 percent to $83.80 as ofearly afternoon Wednesday. Its previous closing high was $82.14 in December.

Salesforce is among the biggest winners in the shift from on-premise, packaged software to browser-based applications. By storing data in the cloud, Salesforce's customers access and analyze sales leads, business performance metrics and marketing materials from any device at any time.

That's how the modern workforce is constructed, and legacy vendors Oracle, SAP and IBM have spent many billions of dollars trying to adapt. Investors are still choosing Salesforce, and the ecosystem is expanding. Scores of developers are building apps on top of the Salesforce platform, taking advantage of the company's base of 150,000-plus customers.

Shares of the San Francisco-based company have climbed 12 percent in the past year. Oracle and IBM are each down more than 8 percent over that stretch.

Salesforce reported first quarter revenue growth on May 18 of 27 percent to $1.92 billion, topping analysts' estimates of $1.89 billion, according to Thomson Reuters. The company is consistently growing by well over 20 percent a year while most traditional competitors are shrinking.

Adjusted earnings of 24 cents a share beat estimates by a penny, and Salesforce's operating cash flow surged 43 percent to over $1 billion.

In the call with analysts, CEO Marc Benioff highlighted a recent deal with Amazon.com that calls for Salesforce to build its internet of things (IoT) cloud on Amazon Web Services' infrastructure. He also talked about Uber's use of Salesforce to "build one-to-one journeys at scale for millions of Uber riders worldwide."

Joel Fishbein, an analyst at BTIG, raised his price target to $100 after the report and called it a "must own software stock." Fishbein, like 89 percent of analysts tracked by FactSet, recommends buying the shares.

Salesforce "continues to distance itself as the leader in cloud applications," Fishbein wrote in a May 19 note. "Overall, Salesforce.com continues to demonstrate a rare combination of outsized top-line growth and bottom-line leverage."