Google (GOOG) has underperformed so far this year with a 4% return vs. 6% for the S&P 500.
There have also been some disappointing GOOG stock headlines including scrubbing search results in Europe to deal with privacy concerns and disappointing first-quarter earnings.
But Google stock is better than some investors think, particularly as a long-term play on innovative new technology.
Here’s why I like GOOG stock now:
Recent Momentum for Google Stock: Google’s first-quarter earnings were disappointing. However, the shares have quickly added back 15% since the stock’s low in early May. Consider that Deutsche Bank and RBC lowered targets on Google’s stock after the report, the investment banks still remain bullish with targets of $625 and $670, respectively.
Android Domination: Google’s Android OS was present on 79% of worldwide smartphone shipments in 2013, per Strategy Analytics. That’s a massive market share and surely can be platformed into new revenue streams through advertising, content or other applications on Android-powered phones.
Google Is Flush with Cash: With roughly $60 billion in cash and investments on the books and operating cash flow of over $18 billion last year, there are fewer companies on Wall Street more stable than Google. But it’s not just stability that investors should be attracted to. With a history of ambitious acquisitions for both technology and talent, Google is agile and has deep enough pockets to be seen as a serious competitor in almost any field of technology.
Innovation: As proof that Google can put its high-tech know-how to work on far more than just smartphone apps and Internet ads, consider its recent health initiatives. Earlier this year, Google announced plans for a smart contact lens that could help diabetics monitor their blood sugar. Also, consider that in past several months, Google has snapped up a host of robotics and artificial-intelligence firms including Deep Mind, humanoid robotics manufacturer Schaft and robotic-arm company Redwood Robotics. Who knows when or how this focus on healthcare or robots will hit the bottom line, but the efforts are proof of just how hard Google is thinking about the future of technology.
“Other” Revenue is Real: Just look at the “other” line on the tech giant’s revenue breakdown and you’ll see that Google isn’t just funding pet projects for fun and games. Sales in this category more than doubled from 2012 to 2013, going from just under $2.4 billion to almost $5 billion. Furthermore, those “other” revenues are more than triple the $1.4 billion from fiscal 2011. That trend should only grow, considering first-quarter “other” revenue totaled over $1.5 billion. Sure, Google is an advertising powerhouse and relies heavily on that arm of the business now, but the company is growing and evolving ambitiously, and many of these projects are starting to deliver material revenue.
Valuation: Based on 2014 earnings forecasts, Google stock is trading for a forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 21 right now. That’s a bit high, but taken in context, it seems, at worst, fairly valued. Consider, for instance, that Google traded for a forward P/E of around 20 for much of 2011 and 2012 — and that a decade ago, its valuation regularly skewed higher. When you throw in the fact that the forward P/E of the S&P 500 is over 16 and the Nasdaq is pushing 18, Google doesn’t look pricey at all.
All in all, Google stock is quite attractive both with the short-term momentum for shares as well as the long-term innovation going on at GOOG.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Write him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @JeffReevesIP.