Twitter suitors vanish as Salesforce rules out bid - FT.com

The boss of Salesforce.com has ruled out his company as a bidder for Twitter, all but bringing an end to attempts to find a buyer for the struggling internet company.

The US cloud software company had been left as the most likely bidder last week, after other potential acquirers, including Google and Walt Disney, decided not to pursue a deal.

“In this case we’ve walked away. It wasn’t the right fit for us,” Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce, said in an interview with the FT. Twitter’s shares tumbled more than 6 per cent on the news.

Salesforce had been the only serious contender left in the race after Twitter opened itself to takeover offers, two people briefed on the sale process said. However, Twitter’s advisers are still seeking other potential bidders, those people added. The sale process is virtually dead, said a person close to Twitter’s senior management.

Twitter’s management could still explore the option of a buyout backed by wealthy investors or an activist could try to unseat CEO Jack Dorsey and force the board back to the negotiating table. But both seem increasingly unlikely.

Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., speaks during the DreamForce Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. Salesforce isn't wasting any time putting its new acquisitions to use in a bid to strengthen its business software against larger rivals such as Microsoft Corp. New products unveiled Tuesday will blend the company's services with Quip, the document company Salesforce purchased in August for about $600 million. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg©Bloomberg

Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com chief executive

Mr Benioff’s decision to drop his pursuit will help put an end to speculation of a sale and will help Mr Dorsey focus on a strategy to bring back user growth at the company, said a venture capital investor close to the Twitter chief.

The Salesforce boss came under pressure from his own shareholders over the potential deal, as investors questioned why a company that sells sales software to companies would want to buy a consumer internet company in need of repair. Mr Benioff tried to calm his investors at an analyst meeting late last week by saying he considered a wide range of deals that he did not end up pursuing, though he pointedly stopped short of ruling out a Twitter bid.

However, Salesforce was still considering a bid for Twitter as recently as Wednesday of this week, a week after Mr Benioff publicly tried to calm his investors, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking.

“It’s not the right fit for us for many different reasons,” Mr Benioff said in the interview. Asked if price was the deciding factor, he added: “You’re going to look at price, you’re going to look at culture, you’re going to look at everything.”

It’s not the right fit for us for many different reasons. You’re going to look at price, you’re going to look at culture, you’re going to look at everything

- Marc Benioff, Salesforce chief executive

Wall Street expectations of a bid for Twitter had already faded as other potential buyers backed away. The news late last month that the company was considering a sale boosted its stock price by more than a third, though the shares had given up all of those gains by the beginning of this week.

“Now we all know that [Mr Dorsey] tried selling the company and nobody can be accusing him of not exploring that option,” the venture capital investor said. “This has been a distraction for him and the company . . . The failure of the sale process is a blessing in disguise.”

The Salesforce pursuit of Twitter followed its loss to Microsoft in a $26bn bidding war for LinkedIn, and left shareholders worried that Mr Benioff was considering large acquisitions that did not fit naturally into his company’s business.

“I want to have a look at everything, conceptualise, be free to think creatively,” Mr Benioff said. He told shareholders last week that getting access to Twitter’s data, which could have been used to enhance Salesforce’s services for its marketing customers, was not in itself a reason to buy the company.


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