Brexit shows up in risk factors, earnings calls for Salesforce, others


The U.K.’s increasingly messy attempt to withdraw from the European Union, called Brexit, is creating uncertainty for U.S. tech companies, who are starting to warn investors about possible fallout.

Salesforce disclosed in its annual filing last week that it is moving away from a “U.K.-centralized European structure” and investing in other European cities like Dublin to mitigate the impact of Brexit on its business. Salesforce books most of its European revenue in British Pounds as its U.K. subsidiary plays a central role in the region, but it will now allow its other European offices to recognize revenues in local currencies to reduce exchange rate volatility, it said.

“Brexit could adversely affect U.K., regional (including European) and worldwide economic and market conditions and could contribute to instability in global financial and foreign exchange markets, including volatility in the value of the British Pound and Euro,” Salesforce wrote in the filing.

Salesforce is part of a growing number of tech companies addressing the potential impact of Brexit, a move that could add significant uncertainty to businesses in Europe. Although British lawmakers are once again expected to vote to delay Brexit, which is scheduled for later this month, more investors are asking about its future risk.

In the past three months, 93 earnings calls of the S&P 500 companies addressed Brexit and its potential impact, according to FactSet. Among those are some of the largest companies, including Facebook, Cisco and Walmart.

While most companies were cautious with their answers, sharing very little detail, some companies were more upfront about it.

Expedia, for example, said it’s seen a drop-off in U.K flight bookings due to “uncertainty around Brexit.” Booking Holdings, the owner of a group of travel sites including Priceline.com, also said Brexit is creating a “tremendous amount of uncertainty.”

Facebook’s CFO David Wehner also said during January’s earnings call that macroeconomic concerns, like Brexit, are a “risk on top of other issues” facing the company.

Other companies tried to play down Brexit’s effect on its business. HPE CEO Antonio Neri said demand was “very steady” throughout the quarter, highlighting double-digit sales growth in the U.K. Walmart‘s CEO Doug McMillon said he’s “impressed” with his U.K. team’s performance, while Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said he’s been “amazed at the resilience” he’s seen from employees around the world.

It’s unclear why Salesforce decided to share more details about Brexit’s potential impact. The company generates less 20 percent of revenue from the European region, a smaller share than companies like Facebook or Cisco, who get about a quarter of their sales from Europe. Salesforce’s representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Still, Salesforce said it’s already “evaluated and started to implement initiatives,” as it sees “significant uncertainties” arising from Brexit’s outcome.

“We recognize that there are still significant uncertainties surrounding the ultimate resolution of Brexit negotiations, and we will continue to monitor any changes that may arise and assess their potential impact on our business,” Salesforce said in the filing.

WATCH: UK parliament approves motion seeking delay of Brexit



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