What to Watch When Salesforce Reports Earnings

Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) has been a force to be reckoned with in recent years and that continued into 2018. The stock has already gained 43% year to date, obliterating the S&P 500's 7% return, on the strength of back-to-back quarters of results that beat analysts' consensus estimates, as well as the company's own ambitious forecasts.

Investors are hoping that trend can continue and will be watching closely when the company reports the financial results for its just-completed fiscal 2019 second quarter on Aug. 29, after the market closes. Let's take a look at Salesforce's recent results and a few items of interest going into the company's earnings report.

An impressive start to the year

For the first quarter, Salesforce reported revenue of $3.01 billion, up 25% year over year, and adjusted earnings per share of $0.74. Both easily topped analysts' consensus estimates, which called for revenue of $2.94 billion and earnings per share of $0.46, while also exceeding the high end of management's forecast.

Salesforce also added an additional $6.2 billion in unearned revenue, up 25% compared with the prior-year quarter, and driving its backlog to $20.4 billion, which will be earned in future quarters.

For the upcoming second quarter, Salesforce forecasts revenue of between $3.22 billion and $3.23 billion, or roughly 25% year-over-year growth. Analysts were previously expecting revenue of $3.11 billion, but over the past three months have increased their consensus estimates in line with the high end of Salesforce's guidance. The company is expecting adjusted earnings per share in a range of $0.46 and $0.47, an increase of about 42% compared with the prior-year quarter. Analysts are lining up on the high end of this forecast as well.

Stubborn as a Mule(Soft)

Salesforce completed its $6.5 billion purchase of MuleSoft last quarter, and believes this is a natural expansion of its existing business and will complement its Einstein artificial intelligence platform. The ability to extract previously unavailable information from a variety of cloud sources will give Salesforce customers greater insight into their data than ever before.

This deal has been getting some love from analysts, too. Keith Weiss from Morgan Stanley is predicting that the company will be able to derive strategic value from MuleSoft. "Unlocking data trapped in legacy systems via MuleSoft brings [Salesforce.com] to the forefront of driving digital transformation for its customers," Weiss said. "Consensus expectations likely underestimate this growth potential and [Salesforce's] improved [mergers and acquisitions] track record, driving our estimates and price target higher." This enthusiasm prompted Weiss to raise his price target from $153 to $178, a 16% increase from its previous level and 22% above the stock's current price.

Beat and raise

Another factor supporting Salesforce's increasing stock price is the company's habit of "beat and raise" -- topping its own forecast, then raising its guidance for the remainder of the year. Salesforce has performed this feat so often that investors have come to expect it, so anything different might be seen as a potential problem.

The company has been vocal about its plans to double its revenue by 2022. By surpassing $3 billion in revenue last quarter, Salesforce achieved a run rate of $12 billion, getting ever closer to its $20 billion objective. Investors will be doing the math to see if the current quarter's results move the needle toward that goal.

Salesforce started off the year with a bang, and if history is any indication, that trend should continue into the current quarter.

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Danny Vena has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Salesforce.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.