Because of a number of sales wins, Salesforce.com (CRM -0.95%) had what most investors and industry pundits agree was a solid first quarter to this calendar year. Revenues topped estimates, and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff raved about the introduction of its new "wave analytics cloud," which was the most successful rollout in the company's history. Of course, this is a publicly traded entity, which means it lives in a world of "what have you done for me lately?"
Consensus analyst estimates suggested that Salesforce.com would deliver $1.5 billion in sales in its recently completed fiscal 2016 Q1, and non-GAAP earnings (excluding one-time items) of $0.14 a share. Both would have been significant improvements over the prior year, when Salesforce.com delivered $12.23 billion in revenue and $0.11 in non-GAAP earnings per share. Turns out, Benioff and team bettered last quarter's results, both in revenues and EPS.
Just the facts
For the quarter, Salesforce.com squeaked by analyst estimates by generating $1.51 billion in sales and a solid $0.16 per share in non-GAAP earnings. Somewhat surprisingly, in a good way, was despite Salesforce.com's continued spending on infrastructure, personnel, and new solutions such as analytics and data science -- the biggest opportunities for future growth, according to Benioff -- it still managed to eke out positive earnings of $0.01 a share.
Another area Benioff often refers to in Salesforce.com's quarterly calls are its "deferred billings" total: sales that are on the balance sheet but aren't included in quarterly revenues. Though deferred revenues dropped slightly from last quarter, they still totaled $3.06 billion -- a 31% improvement over last year.
Despite its negligible GAAP EPS, Salesforce.com continues to print cash, as it demonstrated in its recently completed quarter. Cash from operations of $731 million in fiscal Q1 were a whopping 54% improvement over last year, and free cash flow jumped nearly 60% to nearly $660 million.
Future guidance, which can sometimes be a quarterly earnings announcement killer, was another feather in Salesforce.com's cap, and probably part of the reason its stock was up more than 4% in after-hours trading as of this writing. The CRM king is noted for its nearly always spot-on projections, so this quarter's forecast of $1.59 billion to $1.6 billion should also bring smiles to Salesforce.com shareholders. Assuming it delivers, fiscal 2016's Q2 revenues would be over 20% higher than its year-ago quarter.
On the EPS front, Salesforce.com's second quarter is projected to come in anywhere from flat to negative-$0.01 a share, and from $0.17 to $0.18 a share in earnings on a non-GAAP basis. From a GAAP perspective, flat to down $0.01 a share may not sound like a winning quarter, but that stacks up awfully well against last year's $0.10-per-share loss.
A few takeaways
Though spending did increase year over year, Salesforce.com seems to slowly be getting a handle on costs. Yes, operating expense jumped about $100 million, and cost of revenues grew by nearly $90 million, but generating almost $300 million additional revenue this past quarter more than made up for what were largely marketing and sales expense hikes. Salesforce.com now boasts nearly 17,000 full-time employees, up from "just" 14,200 last year.
While not necessarily disturbing, Salesforce.com's geographic revenue mix does warrant keeping an eye on. All three of Salesforce.com's primary regions -- the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific -- grew revenues last quarter, but it was the Americas markets that drove its growth. Up over 30% to $1.12 billion, the Americas now account for 74% of total revenues, compared with 71% last year.
The lack of geographic revenue diversification is either a great opportunity to expand new markets or could be cause for concern. However, with Benioff's aggressive growth plans in full swing to become "the fastest [enterprise software company] to reach $10 billion in annual revenue," it stands to reason growth in Europe and the Asia-Pacific markets are part of the plan.