Acquisition of Tableau marks its biggest ever, as competition heats up in data analytics
By Asa Fitch and Kimberly Chin
Salesforce.com Inc. agreed to buy data-analytics platform Tableau Software Inc. for more than $15 billion in stock, making its largest-ever acquisition as it fights off rivals challenging its dominance in software that helps companies understand their customers.
The San Francisco company has made many pricey acquisitions in recent years, aimed at broadening the tools and services it offers. But none of the deals have been close to the size of Tableau, a leader in software that creates visualizations of large data sets that businesses can use to spot trends and make decisions.
Salesforce has built a powerful software business with over $13 billion in annual revenue by helping companies ditch legacy computer systems and move data to the cloud. Tableau, however, makes most of its money selling software installed on customers' own computers, expanding Salesforce's reach but also putting it in less-familiar territory.
Salesforce is paying a 42% premium over Tableau's closing share price on Friday, indicating an urgency to both defend and extend its turf. The acquisition is the fourth-largest technology deal globally this year, according to Dealogic data, behind a trio of financial-technology deals.
While Salesforce is the world's biggest seller of so-called customer relationship management software, competitors including Microsoft Corp. and Adobe Inc. have gained ground in recent years. Salesforce has around a 20% market share, according to International Data Corp.
"Microsoft is making gains overall in the market, and this is a way for them to strike back," said Steve Koenig, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
"It extends their rivalry from [customer-relationship management] to the heart of the analytics market."
Salesforce investors reacted negatively to the deal on Monday, sending the company's shares down 5.2% to $152.79, after they had risen 12% for the year. Analysts said the fall reflected concerns about the price Salesforce paid and share dilution as a result of the all-stock purchase.
Shares of Tableau jumped 33% to $167.41, putting them up 40% for the year.
Salesforce has performed strongly in recent quarters, including this month reporting record revenue for its most recent period. But it has also faced struggles, among them a service outage in May for some customers that lasted several days.
World-wide spending on technologies and services to move companies into the digital age is expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2021, Salesforce said, citing data from IDC.
And other technology companies are also looking to get into the business-intelligence and data-analytics business. Last week, Alphabet Inc.'s Google acquired Looker for $2.6 billion to help it mine large caches of data for insights. Microsoft has gone shopping to bolster its cloud business Azure, which has given its top line a big boost in the past year.
Last year, Salesforce bought web-based service MuleSoft Inc. in a $6.5 billion deal, as it sought to migrate more clients to cloud services. The company also bought e-commerce platform Demandware Inc. for $2.8 billion in 2016.
Software from Tableau, which was founded in 2003, allows companies to build databases, spreadsheets, graphs and maps from their data. More than 86,000 organizations globally work with Tableau, the company said. Tableau's clients include Charles Schwab Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. It generated $1.16 billion in revenue last year.
"With Tableau, we can go to every single department and every single user and enable them to help see and understand data," Bret Taylor, Salesforce's president and product chief, said on a conference call Monday.
In 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that Tableau was referenced on a leaked internal presentation that showed a list of potential Salesforce merger and acquisition targets. Salesforce said at the time it would "routinely survey the industry landscape across a wide range of companies, but acquire very few."
On Monday, Marc Benioff, Salesforce chairman and co-CEO, said he has long had a deep admiration for Tableau. Mr. Benioff said that when he speaks with clients, "we're talking about all the different products they're using: Sales Cloud and Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud, and they're using all of our various capabilities. And then they'll start talking about how they're using Tableau."
Tableau will continue to operate independently under its own name and under the current leadership team led by Adam Selipsky, the companies said. Also, it will remain based in Seattle, which Mr. Benioff said will become Salesforce's second headquarters.
Salesforce said it would combine Tableau's capabilities with Salesforce Einstein, its artificial intelligence-powered platform, which would help provide services at every touchpoint of sales, marketing, service and commerce for customers.
The transaction, which Salesforce aims to complete by the end of October, is expected to add $350 million to $400 million to the company's revenue in the current fiscal year. Sales for the year ending Jan. 31 are projected at between $16.45 billion and $16.65 billion.
Write to Asa Fitch at email@example.com and Kimberly Chin at firstname.lastname@example.org