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Salesforce.com soars 56% in debut, to $1.7b in value

SAN FRANCISCO -- The stock of Salesforce.com Inc. soared 56 percent in its market debut yesterday, another sign that investors have shaken off the bad memories -- and huge losses -- from the dot-com bust of a few years ago.

The online software pioneer's shares rose $6.20 from their initial public offering price to close at $17.20. The performance, which left Salesforce.com with a $1.7 billion market value, outstripped the average first-day gain of 13 percent posted by companies that have gone public so far this year, according to Renaissance Capital, a Greenwich, Conn., research firm.

Wall Street's enthusiasm followed a rush to participate in Salesforce.com's coming out party, enabling the San Francisco company to raise its IPO price by 38 percent to $11 per share.

Salesforce.com expects to pocket $98.3 million from the offering of 10 million shares.

Conceived in 1999 during the Internet boom, Salesforce.com is one of the few companies from that era that continue to punctuate its corporate name with dot-com. Most other online companies that survived the dot-com downturn tweaked their names to distance themselves from the financial ruin that devastated the high-tech industry.

The biggest difference between Salesforce.com and yesteryear's Internet companies shows up on the income statement. Unlike early dot-com firms, Salesforce.com makes money, earning $3.5 million on revenue of $96 million in its last fiscal year, ended in January. The company posted a profit of $437,000 on revenue of $35 million during the first quarter of the current year.

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