by Will Ashworth | January 31, 2014 9:17 am
Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG) both reported Q4 earnings, yesterday, and investors had very different reactions to each report. AMZN stock is down 8% in pre-market trading, while GOOG stock has shot up 4% before the open.
In an apples-to-apples comparison Google’s earnings are clearly the better of the two. However, Jeff Bezos doesn’t look at short-term profits the way most analysts do. He’s concerned about building a company that’s sustainable over decades, not years.
Investors need to consider which company has the better road map for future success. In November, InvestorPlace contributor James Brumley came to the conclusion that Google’s stock was the better of the two. I, on the other hand, am not so sure. I personally like what AMZN stock is doing … but as James alluded to in his article, Google’s not exactly sitting around.
So, which is better — AMZN stock or GOOG stock? Let’s take a look.
Three Things to Like about AMZN Stock
Customer-focused: Amazon does everything with the aim of benefiting its customers. As Bezos stated in the 2013 letter to AMZN stock investors:
“We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to. These investments are motivated by customer focus rather than by reaction to competition.”
In the last two years, Amazon has spent $7.2 billion improving its business at the expense of short-term free cash flow. That’s how committed it is to improving the customer experience — AMZN stock investors (including Bezos) be damned.
Amazon Web Services: Ken Sena is an analyst for Evercore Partners (EVR). He expects Amazon’s cloud computing business to be worth $50 billion, or 25% of its total enterprise value, by the end of 2015. That’s less than a decade after Bezos and company created AWS. With computing infrastructure growing by leaps and bounds, as Google knows all too well, the offspring of AWS will make the biggest difference for AMZN stock.
AWS Marketplace: This is where the profits are expected to flow for AMZN stock. The software marketplace currently offers 1,110 software product listings that users pay for on a usage or subscription basis or a combination of both. AMZN takes 20% of any billings. Sena believes the marketplace, which has seen a huge increase in usage over the past year, will be worth $20 billion by 2015 despite revenues representing just 1% of Amazon’s total revenue. Healthy profit margins have a lot to do with that valuation.
Nest: I’m talking about the manufacturer of thermostats and smoke alarms, which Google is acquiring for $3.2 billion. The key to this deal is Nest CEO Tony Fadell, who designed the iPod during his seven years at Apple (AAPL). Forced out in 2008, Fadell would establish Nest less than two years later with financial backing from Google Ventures. Google gets a very talented team of people who can actually design and sell useful products. With Google selling Motorola Mobility for $2.91 billion — $9.6 billion less than it paid — the acquisition of Nest becomes even more vital to the future of GOOG stock.
Free Cash Flow: Despite spending $7.4 billion (more than double the year before) purchasing property and equipment in 2013, free cash flow for GOOG stock amounts to more than $11.3 billion, or 19% of revenue. In comparison, AMZN stock has never delivered free cash flow above $3 billion in any given year; nor has its free cash flow as a percentage of revenue been anywhere near 19%. If you believe the best investments involve companies with positive free cash flow, GOOG stock is clearly a better choice.
Google Fiber: Google first introduced gigabit internet in Kansas City in November 2012. It’s currently rolling out the internet service in Provo, Utah with Austin, Tex. as the third city on its hit list. While it’s debatable whether Google has the patience to roll this out across America, there’s no argument against the usefulness of Internet service that’s 100 times faster. The fact that Google’s trying to close the circle by capturing internet users at the source makes complete business sense for GOOG stock. Whether it will work is another matter. But GOOG stock gets an “A” for effort.
It wasn’t too long ago that InvestorPlace editor Jeff Reeves mused about whether AAPL stock would reach $1,000 before GOOG stock.
Jeff picked AAPL. In hindsight, we know Google crossed the line first. But a lot of media types came to the same conclusion as Jeff — that’s just the way things roll. In this industry, those of us who pontificate about stocks learn very early on that we’re not always going to be right. It comes with the territory.
With Apple temporarily pushed to the sidelines, the new tech fight seems to focus on whether AMZN stock or GOOG stock will win the race to tech stock immortality. If both manage to reach this seemingly unattainable target, they will do so in completely different ways. Neither plan is better … just different.
Thursday’s earnings results don’t change where each company is headed. At the end of the day I have to go with Jeff Bezos over Larry Page. AMZN stock wins the race against GOOG stock … if only by a nose.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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