Salesforce Said to Work With Bankers to Field Inquiries

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If Salesforce Is for Sale, Are They Too Big to Buy?

Salesforce.com Inc. is working with financial advisers to help it field takeover offers after being approached by a potential acquirer, people with knowledge of the matter said.

There is no certainty any deal will transpire, the people said, asking not to be named because the information is private. The people didn’t identify potential acquirers. Bankers may help rebuff any suitor or work out an eventual sale, one of the people said.

Salesforce jumped 11.6 percent in New York trading Wednesday, giving it a market value of about $49 billion.

A takeover of Salesforce would be the largest ever of a software company, and for any buyer it would mark an aggressive push into cloud computing -- the delivery of business software and services via the Internet, buttressing the portfolios of its largest rivals: Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp. and SAP SE.

While all those companies have their own customer relationship management technologies, they trail Salesforce’s products in market share, according to an annual ranking that researcher Gartner Inc. published last May. Oracle is the most “realistic buyer,” Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR & Co. wrote in a research note Wednesday.

“Oracle is desperate to establish itself as a leader in the cloud, and acquiring the leading cloud company and bringing on board a visionary leader in Marc Benioff would help toward accomplishing this goal,” he wrote, referring to Salesforce’s chief executive.

Salesforce stock is soaring after being temporarily halted due to volatility
Salesforce stock is soaring after being temporarily halted due to volatility

Deal Spree

Microsoft and Adobe Systems Inc. teamed up Wednesday to offer their mutual customers a mixture of customer resource management and marketing products -- something that customers could get solely from Salesforce. Since Salesforce made its acquisition of marketing firm ExactTarget Inc. for $2.42 billion in mid-2013, Oracle has bought a number of marketing companies, including Responsys for $1.44 billion and Blue Kai Inc.

“The company is not under duress, they wouldn’t be a seller under duress,” said Steven R. Koenig, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. “It would have to be a motivated buyer who would be willing to pay a premium.”

Chi Hea Cho, a spokeswoman for Salesforce, declined to comment, as did representatives for Oracle and Microsoft. Nicola Leske, a spokeswoman for SAP, referred to comments by SAP Chief Executive Officer Bill McDermott, who has said that the company is done making big acquisitions.

Oracle, with a market value of about $194 billion, makes databases and other software that helps companies store, sort, manage and analyze large amounts of digital information.

Larry Ellison, the company’s founder and chief technology officer, said in March that Oracle expects to earn more money from cloud-based systems than Salesforce by the end of this calendar year.

(Salesforce’s closing market value was corrected in an earlier version of this story.)