​Salesforce as takeover target: Here's a look at the potential buyers

Salesforce has a gawdy market cap so the field of potential acquirers is limited. Nevertheless, a handful of tech giants led by Oracle could pull off a deal.

Salesforce is reportedly retaining investment bankers to look over potential takeover offers in a move that's likely to spur a bevy of cloud acquisition rumors.

According to Bloomberg, Salesforce is using financial advisors to field offers. Salesforce has been approached by a potential acquirer.

Bloomberg noted that there is no certainty a deal will transpire. And one reason for that is that Salesforce could cause a serious case of indigestion for any acquirer.

After shares surged on the takeover speculation, Salesforce was carrying a market cap of nearly $47 billion. Salesforce would represent the largest software acquisition ever.

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While we're talking about Salesforce's future, it's worth pondering what rival could pull off an acquisition. Here's the short list:

  1. Oracle. Salesforce is an Oracle partner and the two companies have a bevy of joint customers. Oracle has stepped up its cloud game and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Larry Ellison aren't exactly arch enemies. Oracle and Salesforce could work. Oracle's market cap its $195 billion and could digest Salesforce with a mix of cash and stock.
  2. IBM. Salesforce would be a nice fit with IBM, which already has the services throughput to integrate cloud applications, and a cloud stack with SoftLayer and Bluemix. A purchase of Salesforce would give Salesforce its cloud blueprint even if it alienated a few partners. IBM's market cap is $172.2 billion so buying Salesforce is expensive, but doable.
  3. Microsoft. If Microsoft paid up for Nokia and aQuantive why not spend a wad of dough on Salesforce. In addition, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella may let Benioff and the gang run. Microsoft's market cap is $403 billion. Microsoft also wants to be the largest cloud player.
  4. Amazon. Amazon Web Services is a juggernaut. Salesforce is a juggernaut. Salesforce would give AWS a near-complete cloud stack. The two companies go together well. Culturally, a deal could work too. Amazon's market cap approaches $200 billion.
  5. Cisco. The company has proven it it navigate emerging trends and Salesforce would give it a clearer road to become the No. 1 IT vendor. Perhaps Benioff runs the entire shebang at some point. Cisco's market cap is $148 billion.
  6. Google. Should Google want to be an enterprise player a Salesforce deal could work. What's unclear is whether Google really wants to bet that heavily on the enterprise cloud. Google's market cap is $374.8 billion.
  7. Apple. Apple acquiring Salesforce would be shocking, but it's clear that CEO Tim Cook gets the enterprise. And Apple's market cap at $750.8 billion is obscene. With that valuation, Salesforce is a tuck-in acquisition to nail down an enterprise business for Apple and establish some serious cloud credibility. Picture a vertically integrated enterprise stack.

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