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Could Oracle, Microsoft, or IBM buy Salesforce?

Only a few companies could afford to buy Salesforce.com. Is a buyout on the horizon, though?

Rumors of a Salesforce.com buyout tore through Wall Street and Silicon Valley on Wednesday, after news broke that the company had hired financial advisers to help it field buyout offers.

Salesforce.com, the market leader in cloud-based customer relationship management software, would be a key asset for any acquiring company in padding its array of cloud offerings. But few companies are in a position to buy Salesforce, which was valued at $42 billion prior to the news yesterday, and then spiked to $49 billion as a result of the rumors.

Most have speculated that the obvious candidate for acquiring Salesforce is Oracle, at which Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff worked prior to founding Salesforce.com in 1999. Oracle and Salesforce have a partnership, despite also being rivals. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison sat on the board of Salesforce.com until Benioff discovered that Ellison was backing a competitor to Salesforce. Other candidates might be Microsoft, IBM, or even Google, speculated Brent Leary, a partner at CRM Essentials.

Salesforce has also forged a partnership this year with rival Microsoft, which also has a competing CRM product, Microsoft Dynamics. Microsoft has also been steadfast over the past year in committing to a cloud-first, mobile-first roadmap with its products, so a Microsoft buyout could make sense. And both Salesforce and Microsoft have released dueling cloud-based analytics offerings over the past year to complement their CRM suites: Salesforce with Wave and Microsoft with Power BI.

IBM might make sense, as it has the infrastructure and services to handle Salesforce applications, which is similarly true for Google, though it's not as clear whether Google wants to delve further into the enterprise cloud space.

Amazon might also be a candidate. With its Amazon Web Services infrastructure combined with Salesforce, the company could fill out its offerings, from infrastructure to applications, in the cloud.

"But if [a company] really wanted to make a huge move into the business application cloud space, this may be the best opportunity to do so in the foreseeable future," Leary said.

Salesforce executives declined to comment about the news.

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