It can be scary to invest during a bear market. For seven straight weeks now, the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC) has moved lower in price, the first time that's happened since 2001.
Nevertheless, seasoned investors know that downturns can be a great time to buy stocks. While some speculative stocks will languish for months or years to come, others (particularly those with solid fundamentals) will recover from the recent downturn.
The trick is separating the wheat from the chaff. Which companies will bounce back, and which will not? One way to determine this is to look for good companies with an established business model. Let's examine one such name: Salesforce (CRM -0.68%).
Revenue growth remains strong
Salesforce was incorporated in 1999 and went public in 2004. It employs over 73,000 people, and its current market capitalization of $159 billion makes it the 41st largest American company, four spots below McDonald's and eight places ahead of AT&T.
The company provides customer relationship management (CRM) software to over 150,000 clients and holds roughly 32% market share in the industry. CRM software helps businesses track, organize, and manage client relationships and data. For businesses large and small, CRM software can replace myriad spreadsheets or databases with an all-in-one tool that tracks leads, customers, and tasks in one location accessible to many employees. Salesforce also owns well-known applications such as Slack (which Salesforce acquired for $27 billion in 2021) and Tableau, a web analytics tool.
As the above chart illustrates, Salesforce has managed to keep growing revenue at a vigorous pace. Quarterly sales growth stands at 26%, impressive for a company with over $26.5 billion in total 2021 revenue. And with that figure expected to reach $32.1 billion in 2023 and $37.9 billion in 2024, Salesforce is poised to extend its double-digit growth rate.
Moreover, free cash flow per share was $5.43 in its most recent quarter, showing that the company is generating ample cash flow, even if profits remain meager.
Salesforce's valuation is nearing a historic low
Since Salesforce's earnings per share (EPS) has alternated between positive and negative over its nearly 20 years as a public company, price-to-book (P/B) can offer a better valuation measure. The P/B ratio is calculated by dividing its stock price by its book value per share (total assets minus total liabilities). A lower P/B ratio is -- generally speaking -- better and indicates that a company's stock is cheap relative to the strength of its balance sheet.
As you can see, Salesforce has never been cheaper on a P/B basis -- and it's significantly cheaper than many of its peers in the software industry, such as ServiceNow (21.7), Workday (9.2), and even Microsoft (11.6).
Is Salesforce a Buy?
Salesforce's growth rate remains impressive, its free cash flow is solid, and its price-to-book valuation is the lowest it's ever been. For investors willing to buy and hold, it looks like a screaming buy.