Salesforce shocks Wall Street with ‘monster quarter’: Here’s what analysts are saying

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Brian Sozzi

Salesforce (CRM) on Wednesday shocked the heck out of Wall Street — and, probably, the five hungry activist investors clamoring for changes at the Marc Benioff-led software giant.

Leaders at Salesforce dropped several bombs on a late Wednesday earnings call that could reset the negative narrative swirling around the company’s flagging stock price.

A disbanding of the M&A committee that has been driving costly purchases of names like Slack and MuleSoft. Promises to hit 30% operating margins by early 2024, up from mid- to high-20s currently. And the reveal of a new $20 billion stock buyback.

Benioff was in good spirits — and clearly focused on margin improvement — when Yahoo Finance caught up with him post earnings call.

“We have hit the hyper-space button,” Benioff said (video above).

Salesforce shares surged 12% in early trading Thursday to hover near $190. The company’s ticker page is the most visited on the Yahoo Finance platform.

Here’s the vibe among Wall Street analysts in the aftermath of that hyper-space button smash by Benioff.

Wedbush

  • Analyst: Dan Ives

  • Rating/Price Target: Outperform; $220

  • The Buzz: “With activists swirling and Street frustration at a boiling point, Benioff & Co. with its back against the wall delivered a monster quarter and guide for the ages that will silence the doubters this morning.”

Jefferies

  • Analyst: Brent Thill

  • Rating/Price Target: Buy; $250

  • The Buzz: “Salesforce delivered the trifecta — growth, margins, and share buybacks.”

Marc R. Benioff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce, Member of the Board of Trustees of World Economic Forum, reacts as he attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Marc R. Benioff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce, Member of the Board of Trustees of World Economic Forum, reacts as he attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Macquarie

  • Analyst: Sarah Hindlian-Bowler

  • Rating/Price Target: Outperform; $225

  • The Buzz: “This report will leave many scratching their heads as it shows macro uncertainty and some slowing to teens growth, but margins were outstanding, and the company outperformed its and the Street’s expectations. We continue to be firm in our view that Mr. Benioff and Ms. [President and CFO Amy] Weaver are onboard with steering the company forward, and Q4 is evidence of that.”

Guggenheim

  • Analyst: John DiFucci

  • Rating/Price Target: Neutral; N/A

  • The Buzz: “Over the years, we have consistently said that Salesforce, given its maturity and scale, should let cash flow to the bank rather than throw it at expensive and questionable acquisitions. We had resigned to the conclusion that unwillingness to trim fat, primarily in the S&M org, was a cultural decision, and something that wouldn’t change as long as Marc Benioff was at the helm. Even when the global restructuring was announced in January, we sized the potential FY24 margin improvement as at least 500 bps, but were skeptical of that actually happening. So we’re surprised that Mr. Benioff and team are finally giving investors margin, and seemingly in the form of FCF too, given the signaling of a pause in M&A (e.g., termination of a board M&A committee), at least for now.”

Brian Sozzi is Yahoo Finance’s Executive Editor. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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