February 18, 2004 5:45 PM PST

Salesforce.com draws closer to IPO

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Software maker Salesforce.com plans to offer its shares for public trading as early as March, according to a source familiar with the company's plans.

The San Francisco company has also chosen a stock symbol, according to a Tuesday filing with the Security and Exchange Commission. Salesforce said its shares will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol CRM, which is also an acronym for customer relationship management, the software niche in which Salesforce competes.

Salesforce executives, including Chief Executive Marc Benioff, will be in New York at the end of February for a marketing event and benefit concert that the company is co-sponsoring. While in town, the executives plan to meet with institutional investors to promote the company and gauge investor interest in its initial public offering. Feedback from institutional investors will help Salesforce price its shares. "That will sort of be the kickoff for marketing the deal," said the source, who requested anonymity.

The company expects the process of pricing its shares to move quickly, clearing the way for an IPO as early as March, the source said. However, delays are always possible, the source added.

A Salesforce representative said she had no comment on the company's IPO plans.

Salesforce filed its first IPO registration papers with the SEC in December. The 5-year-old company, which sells customer service and sales applications for businesses, expects to raise $115 million with the IPO, according to the filing.

The company's IPO is expected to rekindle investor interest in technology IPOs. The event is almost as highly anticipated as the IPO of search king Google, which is rumored to happen later this year.

Most young technology companies list their shares on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, rather than the New York Stock Exchange. Salesforce may have chosen the latter, which has more stringent requirements and charges higher fees, for the sake of having CRM as its symbol. The Nasdaq exchange requires four-letter symbols.

In invitations to the Feb. 25 Customer Success Day in New York, Salesforce said it would make a "major announcement" with IBM. Representatives declined to discuss the details of the announcement, but analysts who follow the company speculated the two companies have formed a partnership.

A partnership between the companies may involve IBM Global Services providing Saleforce with hosting services and marketing muscle, Forrester analyst Erin Kinkin said. Or the companies may have struck a deal under which IBM agrees to specialize in Salesforce consulting services, Meta Group analyst Steve Bonadio said.

Both IBM and Salesforce are big proponents of so-called on-demand information technology. In the on-demand model, computing services work like a water or power utility, with customers paying monthly for what they use rather than investing in infrastructure. IBM also has inked hosting and marketing partnerships with Salesforce rivals Siebel Systems and Onyx Software.

In keeping with his penchant for flashy marketing, Benioff has tied the company's customer day event to a star-studded concert that will raise money for the preservation of Tibetan culture. Musician David Byrne and composer Philip Glass are headlining the Carnegie Hall concert, which will be followed by a reception hosted by actress Uma Thurman.

 

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