The report that Salesforce has been approached by a potential acquirer has stirred up a guessing game in the tech industry. Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and SAP are among the companies whose names are being floated as the mystery suitor, although Oracle is reportedly not interested.
So what about Microsoft? At a high level, a deal with Salesforce would make sense as a signature acquisition for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, allowing him to solidify Microsoft’s position in cloud computing, where he is already focusing much of the company’s attention. In some ways, it makes far more sense for Microsoft than did the Nokia smartphone acquisition, which is a leftover of Steve Ballmer’s tenure at the company.
It would also play to Microsoft’s traditional strength as an enterprise technology provider, further distancing the company from rivals such as Apple and Google.
Although such a deal would have seemed almost out of question a year ago, Microsoft and Salesforce have been working together more closely following their partnership announcement last May.
It’s not clear how the Salesforce CEO would fit in at Microsoft as an executive, if it came to that, but Benioff and Nadella have shown signs of a strong rapport.
On the conference call announcing their partnership, Benioff said it had been “absolutely great” working with Nadella. The Salesforce CEO also talked about the common visions of the companies. “We both view our mission as helping customers succeed in today’s new world, a world of the cloud, a world of social computing, of mobile computing, of connectivity,” Benioff said at the time.
Neither company is commenting on the reports this week, but Bloomberg reports that Salesforce is working with financial advisers to help the company field acquisition offers, after it was approached by the mystery company.
Microsoft has the resources to pull off the deal, although an all-cash acquisition would take about half of the Redmond company’s $95 billion cash balance. Salesforce’s market value is more than $48 billion, with the San Francisco-based company’s stock climbing on the acquisition reports.
It would easily qualify as the biggest acquisition in Microsoft’s history, eclipsing the $8.5 billion Skype deal. It would also be one of the largest deals in tech history.
The back-end technology integration would be a challenge, but given Microsoft’s increased focus on cross-platform compatibility and cloud computing, it’s much more realistic than it would have been in the past. From a branding perspective, Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM would probably be combined with Salesforce’s customer relationship management platform in some way.
The deal would also give Microsoft a bigger presence in the Bay Area, beyond its existing Silicon Valley offices, potentially helping recruiting efforts.
Bottom line, there would be challenges, but at a high level, a combination of Microsoft and Salesforce wouldn’t be as crazy as it might seem at first.