How shall I praise thee, salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM ) ? Let me count the ways.
Shares of the on-demand software pioneer (sorry, Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , y'all are also-rans in this race) surged in early-morning trading Thursday, before giving back some of the gains. Why? Oh, a little thing like an eightfold increase in per-share profits may have had something to do with it.
On Wednesday, salesforce.com reported earning $0.08 per share, versus just a penny a share in the year-ago quarter. The 700% increase in earnings demonstrated the remarkable scalability of profits in this fast-growing business, which also posted impressive sales growth: up 52% year over year, on a 35% surge in net paying customers. A client list that includes the likes of News Corp. (NYSE: NWS ) , Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) , and MercadoLibre (Nasdaq: MELI ) has now ballooned to 43,600 names.
But the headline numbers aren't the only things to like about salesforce.com. Peer through the muddle of GAAP accounting with me, and I think you'll be impressed at all the free cash flow underlying the accounting earnings -- not to mention an increase in the former that's nearly as great as in the latter. Q1 2009 free cash flow dwarfed net earnings, as salesforce.com generated $59.6 million in free cash flow, fully $50 million better than it reported under GAAP. Growthwise, that represented a near-tripling in free cash flow at the company versus Q1 2008.
4. The business
In addition to all of the above, I need to highlight once again a key reversal in the business dynamics at salesforce.com. The company has been GAAP-profitable for more than a year now, but over the past two years, it has relied primarily on interest from its bank account to provide the bulk of its profits. But now, salesforce.com has now put together back-to-back quarters in which it generated greater profit from operations than it earned as interest on its cash stash.
To illustrate this reversal: One year ago, the company earned $114,000 from its business, and more than $5 million in interest on its cash. Last quarter, an overflowing treasure chest generated $6.7 million in interest income, but income from operations still managed to lap it twice, producing $15.4 million in operating profit.
So let me close by saying: Welcome to respectability, salesforce.com. You're finally more than just a bank account.
What did we expect out of Salesforce.com last quarter, and what did we get? Find out in: