As Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) CEO Marc Benioff readies his December 2 keynote for Dreamforce, his company’s annual user conference, tech industry constituents and investors are waiting for news of Salesforce’s expected acquisition of work collaboration software platform Slack (NYSE:WORK.)
This morning CNBC’s Dan Faber told Mad Money’s Jim Cramer that, according to sources, the acquisition will be announced Tuesday afternoon after the market closes. The CRM giant is expected to pay a “very high premium. Way through the comp multiples it would seem at this point,” reported Faber. He added that Slack hasn’t spoken to any other potential buyers and that they have been engaging with Benioff directly.
Rumors of the sale have caused Slack’s shares to soar, by as much as 30 percent, making it a more expensive buy than many had expected; in fact, Slack is trading at an all time high, at around $42 per share.
“I didn’t want to hear that kind of price in part because my charitable trust owns Salesforce,” Kramer told Faber . He also questioned whether Slack can be “easily integrated” into Salesforce. Cramer noted, as many analysts have, that Microsoft owns the workplace collaboration market largely because its Teams product is bundled for free with Microsoft Office.
“Here’s the problem with Slack. It has been, without a doubt, hurt by the bundling that Microsoft has done. I think that you agree with me that the antitrust case is strong,” Cramer said. Here, he’s referring to Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield’s assertion that Microsoft is behaving illegally with Slack competitor Microsoft Teams by bundling in its its productivity suite.
While Salesforce could help Slack by making it more easily accessible to its user base which includes 83 percent of the Fortune 500, it’s unknown how many customers would be willing to make changes right away. Still, Salesforce would make good use of Slack by leveraging it in its various clouds, make it easier for sales and marketing pros to collaborate.
Is the latter worth Slack’s anticipated price tag ($20- $30B according to Faber)? Critics ranging from Cramer to Evercore ISI analyst Kirk Materne say no. “The problem i s even with Salesforce’s heft in the enterprise market, competing with Microsoft Teams in its core market is going to be extremely difficult and convincing investors of the merits of this deal will be challenging.”
But there could be another angle. The Slack acquisition could be Salesforce’s big entry point to workplace software, now that its Work.com is gaining traction. That game could become far more interesting.