There is nothing seriously wrong at Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE). It’s just that our expectations have gotten a little ahead of themselves. The Photoshop-maker reported year-over-year revenue growth of 23% and net income growth of nearly 36%. Despite reporting “record quarterly and annual revenue,” ADBE stock plunged. Shares of Adobe are now down roughly 6% at about $243 per share.
The “problem” was that while $1.87 per share of earnings looked great on paper, analysts had been expecting a penny more. For the year, Adobe earnings came in six cents short of estimates for $6.82 per share, reporting per-share earnings of $6.76.
If you’re looking for fault, blame Adobe’s $475 million acquisition of Marketo in October. That added just $21 million to revenue. Adobe is in the cloud application space; cloud application companies are hot, and Adobe paid up to get what it wanted. The deal still makes sense but, well excuses.
Cloud App Competition
As companies in any niche grow, they inevitably start bumping into one another, competing more directly. The Marketo buy makes Adobe a more direct challenger to Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) and Salesforce (NASDAQ:CRM), so that’s a good excuse to sell, too.
The march of enterprises to cloud computing is the tech revolution of the decade, but every business revolution turns, inevitably, into the way business gets done. Fresh, new customers get harder to find. Companies that seemed miles apart start running into each other as they expand.
What’s happening now is inevitable. Adobe started down this road by turning creative applications into marketing, and now into experiences. Salesforce’s central niche was always customer relationship management, and once you have a customer you inevitably ask who’s going to manage that relationship, so there are now two companies in the room. With Oracle, there are three. There are now many others as well, from SAP (NYSE:SAP) and International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM), to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and a host of smaller, cloud natives.
This disruption is becoming a fight in the cloud computing services market, as all sorts of businesses try to tie their old technology to new solutions, or tie new solutions together.
Old solutions become commodities, and new cloud solutions turn old vendor relationships upside down.
Adobe Remains a Winner
Adobe’s cloud has brought concepts of art and design to business, turning Web stores into “experiences,” which demand new disciplines, as well as software, to master.
The move to cloud is just the first step in changing business processes, and this is what makes ADBE stock a long-term winner. Database software on the cloud replicates what existed before, mainly changing how it’s paid for to a subscription model. The software purchasing model is now becoming a general purchasing model — everyone wants to sell everything by subscription.
Convincing consumers to make that leap takes creative discipline, the kind Adobe software has always specialized in. Art, the creation of emotion, the process of marketing to generate sales, is what Adobe brings to the cloud party. It’s not just about words or numbers, but a variety of data types, mingling on a variety of screens in a variety of ways.
The Bottom Line on ADBE Stock
There is a long-term future in complex data types, and there are new data types — like augmented reality and virtual reality — yet to be explored fully by marketers.
Adobe’s Creative Cloud, and Experience Cloud, put it in pole position to explore these new ways of creating sales and doing business as the cloud enters its first upgrade cycle, reaching out toward animating the inanimate, and animating imaginations down the sales funnel.
When a long-term investor sees a “disappointment” like the one Adobe delivered Thursday, in other words, they should see a buying opportunity.
Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of a new mystery thriller, The Reluctant Detective Finds Her Family, available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing, he owned shares in MSFT.