Force majeure: n., an unexpected event, the appearance of which renders contractual obligations moot.
As you have probably heard by now, salesforce.com walloped Wall Street's estimates yesterday evening with its fiscal second-quarter 2010 earnings report. In the teeth of the fiercest recession in recent memory, salesforce turned in:
- 20% sales growth and 113% earnings growth,
- expanded its customer base by 32% year over year,
- grew its operating margin by more than 50% (320 basis points),
- and generally left the skeptics speechless.
In fact, I rather suspect that salesforce left some of its fans speechless. Earlier this month, I described how two of Wall Street's best and bravest analysts went out on a limb and upgraded the on-demand software maker. Both Lazard Capital Markets and Morgan Stanley
Not so fast, Hoss
To which salesforce replies: "Pshaw!" After crunching his year-to-date numbers, CEO Marc Benioff predicted that by year-end, his company could manage nearly 19% total revenue growth. Which just goes to show it's hard to resist "the -force."
But does a single superb quarterly report justify buying salesforce today? I'd love to tell you "yes," but the fact is that yesterday's news -- and the resulting rise in stock price -- gives me pause. You see, as great as the headline numbers looked, down on the cash flow statement I see trouble a-brewing with the bull argument for salesforce.
With cash flow down in Q2, and capital expenditures up, salesforce's cash generation skipped a beat. Free cash flow has now improved only 11% year over year during the first six months of the fiscal year, leaving salesforce with just $180 million in trailing free cash flow. Divide that into the company's now-mammoth $6.6 billion market cap, and we're now looking at a price-to-free cash flow ratio north of 36.
On one hand, if salesforce lives up to expectations and grows at north of 40% per year for the next five years -- fine and dandy. On the other hand, that's twice the growth pace expected of Internet wunderkind companies like Google
Call me a cheapskate, but at this price, I find salesforce.com shares easy to resist.
Do the hypergrowth investors at Motley Fool Rule Breakers agree that salesforce is getting a bit big for its britches? Or do they see further prospects for growth ahead? Sign up for your free 30-day trial, and find out.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. salesforce.com and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.