U.S. Markets closed

The $55 billion company that could come out on top after the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal

Nicole Sinclair
Markets Correspondent
Source: Wikimedia

Microsoft’s (MSFT) June 13 announcement to acquire LinkedIn (LNKD) focused on the transformation this $26 billion acquisition would bring to Big Blue.

But overlooked are key implications for the growing $55 billion software giant in Silicon Valley Salesforce.com (CRM).  

After all, Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff said he had also put in a bid for LinkedIn.  Meanwhile, it’s been rumored for over a year that Microsoft has been courting Salesforce itself as a potential target.

Social and enterprise intertwine

Microsoft’s decision to buy the career networking site reflects a growing integration between social and enterprise software, which speaks to Salesforce’s sweet-spot.

Stifel analyst Tom Roderick said that the overlap of social networks and software companies is becoming more indistinguishable.

“The lines are blurring here across all of this social data and its impact on enterprise platforms,” he said. “The very idea that Microsoft would pay $26 billion for LinkedIn and that Salesforce.com might have been interested tells you that just about anything and everything in tech might be for sale right now.”

The collision of social media and software can be seen in Salesforce.com’s own platform. Its “Chatter” platform in particular embraces social on the enterprise stage.

Marc Benioff has a broader vision

A Microsoft-Salesforce tie-up has been discussed for over a year now. And while Roderick believes Microsoft has more firepower for more deals, they would have to be prepared to pay a hefty multiple for Salesforce.

After all, Benioff has been a true visionary.

“He was an early pioneer that advanced the very idea of the cloud better than anyone out there,” Roderick said.  Meanwhile, all software companies are clamoring for more cloud.

“I think it would have to be a whale of a multiple to convince him to be a part of and reporting to a bigger entity in software,” he said. “It would have had to have been a heck of an offer and of course palatable to Benioff himself.”

That’s not to say that Salesforce wouldn’t be a willing seller to Microsoft–at a price, according to Roderick. While Benioff has cast names like SAP (SAP), Oracle (ORCL) and IBM (IBM) as “old tech,” he hasn’t been so quick to put that label on Microsoft, which has transformed under CEO Satya Nadella.

Under Nadella—who succeeded Steve Ballmer in 2014—Microsoft has been transforming.

“They’re willing to open their doors and embrace the ‘co-opetition angle’ more than the old Microsoft was able to do,” Roderick said. “They’ve been willing to pivot their business around the cloud and around Microsoft 365.”

And now, the next step is smart acquisitions.

“I think Nadella recognizes that jump starting that is going to require some really serious M&A,” Roderick said said. “I don’t think they’re done. I think we’ll see something else behind LinkedIn.”

Whether or not Microsoft can erase their historical spotty acquisition track record will be an important primary proof-point, Roderick added.

Salesforce.com is looking for more deals

Meanwhile, losing out on LinkedIn isn’t stopping Salesforce anytime soon.

When Salesforce announced the acquisition of Demandware (DWRE) in the beginning of June, Benioff said in an interview on CNBC that the environment for mergers and acquisitions was just heating up.

“The M&A season right now is the most intense, most exciting I’ve ever seen,” Benioff said. “I’ve never seen more deals and more things happening. We’re not winning every deal. This is just a deal that we were able to get done...It’s tough to get deals done in this environment because everyone’s positioning for growth next year.”

Other deals that Salesforce could gobble up include ServiceNow (NOW) and Workday (WDAY), according to analysts.

This comes especially as the company is trying to build out its verticals, including commerce and marketing.

Meanwhile, temporary disruption at Microsoft could be good for Salesforce, according to Roderick.

“Longer term, the Microsoft-LinkedIn tie-up may create a more formidable threat for Salesforce on the sales cloud side. But for right now, creates disruption at Microsoft that Salesforce isn’t too upset about.”

One thing’s for sure—more deals are likely in the coming year in the software space.