In this episode of Market Foolery, host Mac Greer and Motley Fool contributor Bill Mann hit on a few of the biggest stories in the market. salesforce.com‘s (NYSE: CRM) stock dropped today on a disappointing earnings outlook, but the company’s long-term future still shines.
President Trump continues his Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) railing against Alphabet‘s Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG), which raises some bigger questions. How much danger are big tech companies like Alphabet and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) really in right now? And how much will Facebook’s decision to curate its platform cost it in the long run? Finally, news broke of an insider trading scandal…in the NFL, of all places. Tune in to find out more.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on Aug. 30, 2018.
Mac Greer: It’s Thursday, August 30th. Welcome to Market Foolery! I’m Matt Greer, joining me in studio, the one, the only Motley Fool analyst, Bill Mann. Bill, it’s just you and me!
Bill Mann: What do you want to talk about, Mac? How are you?
Greer: Oh, my gosh! I’m good! There’s so much to talk about. We’ve kicked around a lot of topics. Not everything germane to the world of investing.
Mann: It’s nine bazillion degrees outside and 177% humidity, so I feel like this nice, cool room, I think we should be here for a good 45 minutes and just not leave. Let’s just keep talking.
Greer: I went the other day to the Kennedy Center for a play, and I got in there, and it was so hot. My first thought was, “I’ve put on weight.”
Mann: [laughs] I’ve been meaning to say…
Greer: And I’ve got to do better, I’ve got I’ve got to get in shape. I was so relieved to find that the air conditioning was broken. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t put on weight, it just means that’s not the real problem.
Mann: I grew up in North Carolina and you grew up in Houston, so we are not neophytes to the August humidity scene. But it is special outside!
Greer: Yeah, this is Houston hot.
Mann: This is Houston hot.
Greer: The difference is, in Houston, when you go inside, they crank the AC down to 54 degrees. You’re wearing a down jacket.
Mann: Here in the D.C. area, they’re like, well, good luck!
Greer: OK, enough about the heat. We’re going to try to bring our own heat. We have a motley show here. We have insider trading hitting the NFL. That’s not something you say every day.
Mann: That may be my favorite story of today.
Greer: So good. We have Donald Trump continuing to hit back against Google. We’ll talk about that. And Bill, we’re also going to look around the world, maybe get a stock idea or two from you, in terms of what’s playing out in the world. But let’s begin with Salesforce. Better than expected earnings, but shares down on a disappointing earnings outlook. Now Bill, Salesforce is an enterprise software company. That means that they are selling their software to businesses.
Mann: And a lot of them.
Greer: And a lot of them. The stock’s tripled over the last five years. Is the party over?
Mann: No, no, I don’t think it is. Every time you open up Bloomberg, every time you open up CNBC, Wall Street Journal, who else can I plug here, there’s another company that is rolling out or integrating artificial intelligence and customer relations software, which is basically what Salesforce does. I am no expert, as I am not their target market, but I am to understand that they are the best in the business. They have a very multifaceted approach. They have multiple divisions, each of which could be worth billions of dollars if they were their own companies.
And they had great earnings. I mean, they earned well over $3 billion, $0.71 a share, 27% over the same quarter of last year. Some of that had to do with the integration of their largest merger that they’ve taken on, their largest acquisition of MuleSoft that happened earlier this year.
Greer: Great name, by the way.
Mann: It is a great name. It doesn’t sound particularly software-y.
Greer: No. I’m not sure it gives me a lot of confidence.
Mann: I mean, if you want to talk about a picks and shovels type of business, I think MuleSoft is incredibly well-named. In fact, I think Salesforce should have taken on MuleSoft as —
Greer: I don’t like the soft part. I like the mule part.
Mann: Just Mule. Fair enough. [laughs]
Greer: [laughs] MuleSoft aside, though, this space, you’ve got some big players here. You’ve got Microsoft, you’ve got Oracle, you have IBM. What’s the special sauce for Salesforce?
Mann: Well, I think Salesforce, they are not particularly good at any one thing. That came out exactly wrong. “Basically, they’re terrible at everything, and that’s what makes them great.” No, they have multiple divisions. I think what Salesforce has done better than anybody is being a full-service suite to their clients. It allows them to take on the largest clients, the largest enterprises, the world, the U.S. government, several departments of the U.S. government are clients. One of which is pretty interesting. There was a petition earlier this year among Salesforce employees about the contract that they have with U.S. Border Patrol. They also announced that they’re opening an ethical office, because they want to make sure that their software is being used ethically.
Greer: A-ha. Well, speaking of politics.
Mann: Oh, OK.
Greer: A beautiful segue.
Mann: Let’s be very careful.
Greer: Yes, we’re going to be very careful. We are not a political show. But we’re going to try to talk about this through the lens of an investor as President Trump is continuing his Twitter attacks on Google. If you’re just joining this story, one of the issues here is Trump’s claim that Google favors liberal content and did not promote Trump’s State of the Union address the same way Google promoted Obama’s. Now, Google has responded, saying they haven’t historically promoted the first address to Congress by a new president, which is technically not a state of the union.
Mann: Yeah! And I think it is generally called a state of the union address.
Greer: If you want to win a bar bet with a bunch of political nerds, it’s not a state of the union. Google also went on to say that they did promote Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address. Bill, we’re not going to litigate this particular dispute.
Mann: Please, God.
Greer: But what I do want to get your thoughts on is how you think of the regulatory risk. This isn’t just a Google story. Trump has really called out social media for being what he claims to be unfair to conservative content —
Mann: Or to Trump, specifically.
Greer: Exactly. So, how do you think of this as an investor? Should investors in Google be worried?
Mann: I think they should be. I think that they should be worried a little. I mean, the good news for Google and the good news for Facebook is that it’s probably not going to hurt them in terms of their lead. There’s not some conservative Facebook that’s coming out that’s going to knock Facebook off of its perch; or, take the other side, a progressive Facebook that’s going to knock it off its perch. But I think that there’s a big question, and a lot of people looking back at the Alex Jones issue earlier this year with Facebook, and how Facebook has said, “We’re going to try and limit fake news,” things like that, to me, there’s an open question about whether they should do that, from the standpoint of being a business. As a business, it is going to cost them millions upon millions of dollars to go through and basically censor the news.
Greer: So, you’re saying, exercising editorial control. And basically, at some point, making a decision about what content stays, what content doesn’t, how to prioritize content. That’s going to have implications.
Mann: Yeah. And I think that ultimately, whether it is real or perceived by one side or the other, it is really, really going to be hard for them to be fair, for them to be evenhanded across the issues. Unfortunately, from my standpoint, that ship has sailed. They are now in that business. But I ultimately think that in a couple of years, they’re going to look back and see that as being a mistake, as something that will be very, very costly for them, and will be very hard for them to do correctly. As a business, that’s not the type of thing you want to take on.
Greer: OK, but taking the other side of this, politics aside. If increasingly, Facebook —
Mann: I thought you were going to say something like, “OK, taking the other side of this — Trump’s right, right?”
Greer: [laughs] No, no, I’m not getting into the overt politics of this. Facebook has a lot to lose if, increasingly, their platform is cluttered up with information.
Greer: I’m not sure where it’s coming from. I may be conservative, I may be liberal, I may be anywhere in between. Isn’t there something to be said for at least being more transparent? If I’m seeing an ad, I want to know where that ad came from. If I’m seeing a story, I want to know who paid for it and where it came from.
Mann: You’re exactly right. I think that there are probably routes that they could have gone that opened up that disclosure, but ultimately, it’s going to be really hard for them to do it right.
Greer: And it’s going to cost something.
Mann: Yeah. It’s going to cost something, and I think that there’s something to be said for the good and the bad ideas all being out there in the open and letting them beat each other up. I’d like to think of humankind that eventually, the good ideas will win. But, it’s going to be very hard for them to get it right.
Greer: OK, Bill, our final story — the sexy world of the Cleveland Browns and insider trading!
Mann: I mean, I guess the good news is that it turns out that the Cleveland Browns are also bad at insider trading.
Greer: [laughs] Federal authorities announcing on Wednesday that Cleveland Browns linebacker Mychal Kendricks and television writer and producer Damilare Sonoiki have been indicted on insider trading charges. Bill, we were joking about this beforehand. Insider trading, bad, bad, bad. But we’re talking about the Cleveland Browns.
Mann: Yeah, this is such a cute story to me, in some ways. I would not expect of an NFL player that they would have a really great understanding of how insider trading is enforced and smoked out. I would expect that a Goldman Sachs employee would know exactly how the SEC operates. So, what Kendricks did was, he had an $80,000 account that he opened, and using options just ahead of corporate actions and mergers, he turned it into $1.2 million. Which is pretty good return again over two years. Now, the thing that we know about Mychal Kendricks is that he has not signed an Aaron Rodgers-level $134 million contract. Aaron Rodgers, big fan of the show. But, it is amazing to me, the smash and grab-type tactics that they used to do this, because you’re going to get caught. You’re absolutely going to get caught. The SEC tracks so carefully what accounts do things right ahead of corporate actions. Whether Kendricks should or should not have known, he’s come out and he’s apologized, he apologized to his Browns teammates and his Eagles teammates. He was actually with the Eagles when he was doing this. But, Sonoiki absolutely should have known.
Greer: Yeah. With Kendricks, too, you just want to say, “Just buy an index fund. Don’t overthink it.”
Mann: Hey, you’re an NFL guy. Just take your paycheck and put it in the index.
Greer: Put you on the phone with Jack Bogle.
Mann: Or Aaron Rodgers!
Greer: Do you want the S&P 500 index fund? You want the Total Market fund? That’s a fun discussion to have, in some circles.
Greer: Well, before we wrap up, Bill, I want to talk about a new venture that you’re part of. We mentioned this a bit on the show yesterday, because we had Matt and Aaron. Global Partners, where you’re really casting an eye on everything that’s playing out in the world for investors. Give me the quick snapshot for someone who didn’t hear yesterday’s show.
Mann: Matt Argersinger and — I was going to say Aaron Rodgers again. Aaron Rodgers, also involved with our new product. Aaron Bush and I have scoured the world. Over the last 18 months, The Motley Fool has put about $56 million into developing offices around the world. We now have sites in Singapore, in Hong Kong, in the U.K. we’ve had for a number of years, Germany. We decided that we would begin leaning upon some of the research that they’re doing in really trying to get Americans to focus on one of the areas of the market where we see the most opportunity, where people tend to have the least amount of exposure. That’s global stocks. A lot of them can be bought here in the United States very easily. Then, there are other ones that are buyable in the U.S. through certain brokers, a little bit more difficult to do, but we decided that we were going to walk people through that process and get them some real fantastic global exposure.
Greer: How about a name or two?
Mann: One of the companies that we have talked about a lot here at The Motley Fool, and people don’t even tend to think of this as being a foreign company, though Canada is another country, and Shopify (NYSE: SHOP) is based in Canada. An absolutely wonderful company. It is Tom Gardner’s favorite international company. We have a wonderful write-up about Shopify on the Global Partners site. It is a company that helps entrepreneurs open up an online merchant site very quickly, very easily, relatively inexpensively, and gets people up and selling and getting involved in what is really a revolution in retail sales. For 1,000 years, it’s all been merchant to person. Now, so much of it is being done online, even with the smallest of companies.
Greer: And the stock’s done incredibly well, but that doesn’t deter you?
Mann: Not at all. Not at all, simply because you’re talking about a trend that has just begun. We think the world of the management team of Shopify, Tobi Lutke is the CEO, and his team, and think that they are ahead of the game of a trend that’s really just beginning.
Greer: OK, well, you can find more information on Global Partners at join.fool.com. Bill, thanks for joining me today!
Mann: Great to see you, Mac!
Greer: A reminder that the market is closed on Monday for Labor Day, so we will be back on Tuesday. Chris will be back in the saddle next week with Market Foolery. As always, people on the show may have interests in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don’t buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. That’s it for this edition of Market Foolery. The show is mixed by Austin Morgan. I’m Mac Greer. Thanks for listening! And we’ll see you tomorrow!
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors; LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Mac Greer owns shares of Alphabet (C shares) and Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Facebook, Salesforce.com, Shopify, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of ORCL and has the following options: long January 2020 $30 calls on ORCL. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.