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Salesforce raises guidance but sees pressure as customers back away from big consulting deals

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff attends the TIME100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on April 26, 2023.

Dimitrios Kambouris | Getty Images

Salesforce reported an earnings and revenue beat and lifted its full-year earnings guidance, but the stock dropped as much as 7% in extended trading as capital costs were higher than analysts expected.

Here’s how the company did:

  • Earnings: $1.69 per share, adjusted, vs. $1.61 per share as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.
  • Revenue: $8.25 billion, vs. $8.18 billion as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.

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Capital expenditures in the quarter totaled $243 million, up about 36% and above the $205 million consensus among analysts polled by StreetAccount.

Concerns about costs overshadowed the company’s 11% increase in revenue for the quarter that ended on April 30. Net income totaled $199 million, or 20 cents per share, up from $28 million, or 3 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

For the fiscal second quarter, Salesforce expects earnings of $1.89 to $1.90 per share on an adjusted basis and revenue of $8.51 billion to $8.53 billion. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv had expected $1.70 in adjusted earnings per share and $8.49 billion in revenue.

Salesforce raised its earnings forecast for the 2024 fiscal year but left its revenue forecast intact. It’s now calling for $7.41 to $7.43 in adjusted earnings per share on $34.5 billion to $34.7 billion in revenue. In March, Salesforce’s projected adjusted earnings of $7.12 to $7.14 per share. Analysts polled by Refinitiv had been looking for adjusted earnings of $7.14 per share and fiscal-year revenue of $34.65 billion.

CEO Marc Benioff said in the statement that the company “significantly exceeded” its operating margin target for the quarter. Salesforce is now calling for an adjusted operating margin of 28% for the 2024 fiscal year, up 1 percentage point from the 27% forecast it gave in March.

But there are challenges facing Salesforce. Clients are still looking carefully at deals, which are taking longer to close than they were in the past, Chief Operating Officer Brian Millham said on a conference call with analysts. Now, the company is looking at how to automate the selling process on the low end of the market and make its salespeople more productive, he said.

During the quarter, “our professional-services business started to see less demand for multiyear transformations and in some cases, delayed projects as customers focus on quick wins and fast time-to-value,” Millham said.

The company expects those issues to remain, said Amy Weaver, Salesforce’s finance chief.

“One of the things that we are seeing right now is not only professional services as a whole seeing pressure, but more customers are choosing to contract on the time and materials basis,” she said.

During the quarter, Salesforce announced Einstein GPT generative artificial intelligence technology designed to help salespeople, marketers and customer-service agents do their jobs more efficiently. Many other software makers have been embedding generative AI into their products since OpenAI’s ChatGPT went viral after its November launch.

Also in the quarter, Elliott Investment Management said it would not move forward with its director nominations after the activist firm disclosed a Salesforce stake.

Prior to the drop after hours, Salesforce shares were up 67% so far this year, outperforming the S&P 500, which has edged up 9% in the same period.

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