For technology giants Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), “hello June” translated into “hello renewed antitrust concerns.” Specifically, reports have hit the media that the Department of Justice (DoJ) is gearing up for an antitrust probe into Alphabet, while the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is gearing up for a similar antitrust probe into Facebook.
In response to those reports, both Facebook and Google stock dropped big. FB stock fell more than 7% and GOOGL stock is approaching that 7% level. Relative to their 2019 highs, Facebook stock is now off by about 15%, while Google is off nearly 20%.
Zooming out, weakness related to antitrust laws in both Facebook and Google stocks is nothing more than a buying opportunity for two big reasons.
First, antitrust law has gradually morphed into being all about protecting the consumer, and the consumer is better off on multiple fronts if these two internet giants aren’t broken up. Second, while regulation is likely coming through the pipeline, that regulation will hit all digital ad companies equally, and won’t relatively disadvantage either Facebook or Google, nor will it kill growth in the digital ad market.
Broadly, then, investors should take advantage of antitrust-related weakness in these stocks. It’s overstated, it’s ephemeral, and it will ultimately end with both of these stocks staging big comebacks.
Facebook & Google Stock Won’t Be Broken Up
A big concern regarding the antitrust probes into Facebook and Google is that the government will break up these two internet titans.
That won’t happen. Antitrust law has become all about protecting the consumer. With respect to Facebook and Google, antitrust law is all about protecting consumer data in a digital world. Some are concerned that these two companies are too big, and therefore have too much consumer data.
But, these companies being so big gives them unparalleled resources to create unparalleled solutions to protect and secure consumer data.
For example, despite all the concerns about Facebook privacy, FB stock spends more on safety and security than Twitter’s (NYSE:TWTR) annual revenue. Thus, unparalleled size enables Facebook to dedicate unparalleled resources to create unparalleled solutions to the current digital consumer data crisis.
Because of this, Facebook and Google stock won’t be broken up. The future of consumer data protection is better off if these two titans remain very big.
FB and GOOGL Stock Will Remain The Titans of The Internet
A second big concern regarding the antitrust probes is that Facebook and Google’s digital advertising businesses will be compromised by regulation. Specifically, regulation will limit the amount of data and level of targeting Facebook and Google can use for ad campaigns, in turn eroding the effectiveness of their digital ad businesses.
But, such regulation will hit all digital ad players equally. Twitter will get hit. Snap (NYSE:SNAP), too. And Pinterest (NYSE:PINS). Every digital ad player will be subject to the same data restriction regulations.
Consequently, neither Facebook nor Google will be relatively disadvantaged by such regulations. Instead, the whole digital ad market will become slightly disadvantaged. But, that won’t kill the digital ad market. Where else are marketers going to put their ad dollars? Ad dollars follow consumption, and consumption continues to shift with accelerating momentum to the digital channel.
Thus, regardless of regulation, ad dollars will continue to flow into the digital channel. As they do, the lion’s share of those dollars will continue to make their way into the Facebook and Google ecosystems.
Bottom Line on FB Stock & GOOG Stock
Both FB stock and GOOG stock have been hit hard in early June amid escalating antitrust concerns. And it feels like this is just the latest in a string of negative headlines around antitrust laws, Facebook privacy concerns and more. But, these concerns are overstated and just noise in the big picture. They will pass. Once they do, both stocks will rebound in a big way.
Having said all that, there is some concern with respect to the trade war on these two stocks. If the trade war does escalate, then U.S. businesses will broadly be looking at higher input prices. Higher input prices could result in U.S. companies reconsidering their spending profile. And when that happens, they could easily start cutting back on ad spend. If they do cut back on ad spend, that could result in materially lower growth rates for both Facebook and Google.
Thus, the trade war is a real risk here, not the antitrust stuff. That’s why I’m buying the antitrust dip in FB and GOOG, but am keeping a cautious eye open to see how things progress on the trade front over the next few weeks.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long FB and GOOG.