Salesforce.com files for an IPO

The hosted CRM provider is taking its act to Wall Street in 2004, making its plans to go public official.

Salesforce.com announced today that it is going public.

This morning the Securities and Exchange Commission accepted the hosted CRM provider's registration statement for a proposed initial public offering of its common stock. The IPO is estimated at $115 million, according to the filing.

The San Francisco-based company has more than 120,000 subscribers and 8,400 customers. It has said that its annual revenue will hit $100 million this year.

That strong base of customers and the momentum the company has built should serve it well on Wall Street, said Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager with Boston's Yankee Group.

"[Salesforce.com] has been going down this path for a long time," Kingstone said. "They make sense. They're the strongest ones to pull it off."

The announcement comes one day after other tech companies fared poorly with their IPOs. Orbitz, the online travel site, closed down $1.02 from its offering price at $24.98, and Provide Commerce, an online flower seller, closed down $2 from its $15 offer.

However, Salesforce.com doesn't operate under an e-commerce model and its customer base and profitability give it an advantage, Kingstone said.

The IPO will provide the company with some ready cash to take on CRM enterprise software leader Siebel Systems Inc., which recently expanded into the hosted market. Where Salesforce.com could run into trouble is with the new scrutiny it will face and investors' potential lack of understanding of the shared model of application hosting, Kingstone said.

"They will no longer control their own destiny," Kingstone said. "Their shareholders will."

Denis Pombriant, vice president and CRM research director at Boston-based Aberdeen Group, said the company will be able to forecast some percentage of its revenue for the quarter through existing subscriptions, which should foster investor confidence.

"The stock is going to look like a utility stock," Pombriant said. "It's good for the investor community, and because of that, long-term it will be good for Salesforce."

Current customers of Salesforce.com should see little impact, Pombriant said.

"If anything, if I were a dues-paying customer I would look at this IPO and say 'this company is going to get more capital and will do more for me,'" he said.

Salesforce.com will sell all of its shares with Morgan Stanley & Co. acting as the sole book runner. Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., UBS securities LLC, Wachovia Capital Markets, LLC and William Blair and Company LLC will be co-managers.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Interview: Salesforce.com gains momentum after month of milestones

Article: Salesforce.com's Winter '04 gets warm response

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