UPDATE 1-Three executives leave Salesforce.com

Thu Feb 5, 2009 11:41pm GMT

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* Salesforce.com President Steve Cakebread resigns

* Company lays off 2 executive vice presidents - sources (Recasts to include president's departure, background, )

By Anupreeta Das and Jim Finkle

NEW YORK/BOSTON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Three senior executives left business software maker Salesforce.com Inc (CRM.N) over the past week, at a time when technology companies are bracing for declines in corporate spending this year.

The world's biggest provider of software delivered over the Internet said on Thursday that its president and chief strategy officer, Steve Cakebread, had resigned, effective Feb. 1 for presonal reasons.

Meanwhile, people familiar with recent personnel changes at Salesforce said it laid off Gary Hanna, executive vice president for enterprise sales, and another executive vice president.

Cakebread, who became president last year after working as chief financial officer for six years, will receive $425,000 in severance and bonus payments, along with healthcare benefits through July 1. He was well regarded by investors during his tenure as CFO.

Salesforce spokesman Gordon Evans declined to comment on the layoffs. Hanna could not be reached for comment. It was not clear what type of severance the company paid.

Analysts said the departures may be related to a broader move by Salesforce to lower costs amid concerns that sales will slow this year as business clients cut jobs and reduce spending on tech products.

Seven out of 10 chief financial officers at technology companies expect revenue to decrease or remain flat this year, according to a new BDO Seidman 2009 Technology Outlook Survey of 100 executives at top U.S. tech companies.

Salesforce's flagship product is its customer relationship management software, delivered to companies on the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

The San Francisco-based company charges customers on a pay-as-you-go basis, unlike traditional software providers, which charge upfront.

It's "quite likely that Salesforce customers have been canceling subscriptions in recent weeks," one of the sources said, adding that the two layoffs were not "performance-related."

Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research, said Salesforce's move to downsize its executive suite is a sign the company is not as confident about its outlook as it was after its October quarter.

Salesforce's earnings had topped Wall Street expectations and company executives said in November that business was not suffering dramatically from the economic slowdown.

Since then, shares in the software maker have climbed 35 percent, about twice the 17.5 percent gain in the Nasdaq Composite Index. They rose 4.7 percent on Thursday to $30.72.

"Our research indicates that this quarter was quite challenging. The bookings are probably down," Chowdhry said. "2009 will be an excruciating year for Salesforce."

Salesforce officials declined to comment on fourth-quarter results or the outlook for the coming year prior to releasing results after their fourth quarter ended Jan. 31.

Wall Street analysts are expecting Salesforce to earn 18 cents per share on revenue of $285.5 million, compared with earnings of 13 cents per share on revenue of $216.9 million in the year-ago quarter.

Salesforce rivals include Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Oracle Corp ORCL.O, SAP AG (SAPG.DE) and NetSuite Inc (N.N) (Reporting by Anupreeta Das and Jim Finkle; Editing by Richard Chang)

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