CRM Inc Earnings: 4 Things You Need to Know

Up nearly 5% following a stellar fiscal 2016 Q3, continues to deliver outstanding results. Third-quarter revenue of $1.71 billion not only beat consensus analyst estimates, it was a 24% improvement over the year-ago period: 27% after accounting for currency. Earnings per share (EPS) also popped last quarter to $0.21 on a non-GAAP basis (excluding one-time items), above analyst estimates of $0.19.

CEO Marc Benioff was borderline giddy in announcing last quarter's results, which is par for the course with all earnings calls: and the excitement was warranted. That said, fiscal Q3 is in the rear-view mirror, so what's in the cards for going forward? There are several key areas that shareholders will continue to reap the rewards from -- if is able to deliver on them.

Thank you, may I have another?

What's better for shareholders than a double-digit revenue increase and beating industry pundits' expectations? Raising guidance for future growth, which is exactly what did -- again -- following its recent earnings news.

This quarter, now expects revenue in the $1.78 billion to $1.79 billion range -- a 23% to 24% improvement over the year-ago fiscal Q4. Benioff and team are expecting about the same sales growth of 24% for the year as well, which translates to about $6.64 billion in fiscal 2016, setting yet another sales milestone.

As positive as the estimates for the recent quarter and year are,'s expectations for next fiscal year are even more impressive. The $8 billion to $8.1 billion in sales forecast for fiscal 2017 would be a 20% to 22% increase over this year, and inch closer to its longtime goal of becoming the fastest-ever software company to reach $10 billion in annual revenue.

Beating the big boys

Benioff once again mentioned that German-based SAP and Oracle -- two of's primary competitors -- are lagging, because of "paying a horrible price" for their late arrival to the cloud. Benioff's assessment of's rivals growing in "single digit and negative growth" isn't quite accurate, however. SAP enjoyed a 116% jump in cloud revenue last quarter, though its $636 million in sales is little more than a blip on's radar.

Oracle's cloud sales were better than Benioff alluded to as well, improving 29% year-over-year to $611 million. But as with SAP, Oracle's cloud revenue speaks to its getting a late start. Neither SAP nor Oracle appear to be "paying a horrible price" due to their status as "cloud deniers," but you can bet Benioff will continue to rub salt in their respective cloud wounds.

Keep it coming

For several quarters now, has focused on increasing the amount of recurring revenue it receives from its various cloud units, and it's working -- big time. Per CFO Mark Hawkins, "79% of new subscription and support-related invoices [last quarter] were issued with annual terms," compared to 73% last year. With so much new business of the ongoing revenue variety, has quickly built a solid foundation that shows no signs of slowing any time soon.

Focusing on recurring sales gives and its shareholders a relatively predictable stream of revenue, which is why it's able to forecast such specific sales and earnings expectations each quarter. There is always the possibility of an earnings or revenue surprise, of course, but's emphasis on inking deals with annual terms makes those less likely than most.

Spreading the wealth

An area of concern has been's lack of revenue diversification across its four cloud units, but even that is improving.'s marketing cloud has long lagged behind its sales, service, and app divisions, and the most recent quarter was no exception. However, that disparity is narrowing with each successive quarter, and Hawkins expects that trend to continue.

Last quarter's $169 million in marketing cloud sales brought up the rear, but it was a 28% improvement compared to last year. And after inking what Hawkins called's "largest marketing cloud deal ever" last quarter, the unit is quickly becoming more than an afterthought.

The good news is that beating its own expectations, pulling away from competitors, and increasing and further diversifying its predictable, ongoing revenue sources were all strengths in's Q3. The even better news is that investors can expect more of the same in each of these strategic areas in the quarters and years ahead.

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The article Inc Earnings: 4 Things You Need to Know originally appeared on

Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle. The Motley Fool recommends Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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