Google as a short-term short
The search giant has a great long-term future, but in the near term it's headed for a fall.
By Dana Blackenhorn
For the second time this year, Google (GOOG) is on a roll.
After launching Google Maps on iOS, a product TheStreet.com's Rocco Pendola just loves, Google shares rose $10 in early trading Thursday. They are still $60 short of the company's all-time high of $768, reached in early October, but the company's earnings multiple is reaching the same levels it did then.
Basically, investors are looking past the earnings dilution of Motorola Mobility, a break-even business that hit third-quarter results hard, causing a drop in profits for the most recent quarter with margins of under 20%. The company is seeing income diversification with Google Cloud and Apps, seeing mobile share with Android, seeing the Chrome browser pulling away from its rivals, and seeing the story of "network software everywhere" I sketched out on TheStreet coming true.
Marc Andreessen is among those pounding the table for the stock, the Hindustan Times reports, claiming technologies are trading at their biggest discount to industrials since the 1970s.
Which is why, at least in the near term, I'd consider Google a short.
- Motorola isn't going away: Hardware will continue to negatively impact upon Google's margins for some time, no matter what it does.
- Patents: The cost to Google for battling over patents is only going to increase.
- The Tax Man Cometh: When Eric Schmidt tells The Daily Mail that Google's low tax bills are "capitalism," he's waving a red flat at a bull. Or a lot of bulls. Governments are going to start putting on the squeeze through new laws. They need the money and Google looks like a good place to get it.
- Global Governments: Taxes aren't the only reason for Google to fear governments. The failure of the International Telecommunications Union to agree on a treaty governing the Internet this week, reported by CNET, doesn't end the matter. Autocrats are determined to control their local Internets, they have the technology, and this limits Google's ability to expand, as Bloomberg noted regarding China.
- There will be competition: Yahoo (YHOO) is on the comeback trail, Microsoft's (MSFT) Bing isn't giving up, and markets that are closed to Google, such as China, are developing strong Internet companies with an itch to expand. There remain a lot of people who hate Google, who consider it evil for various reasons, and who are either looking for alternatives or looking to take it down in more nefarious ways. (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)
There are some reasons for caution on this call. A deal with the Federal Trade Commission on patents may be coming, 4Traders notes. That could provide lift, even though no deal is in sight on the trickier questions of its search dominance, with Google insisting it wants no consent decree and FTC lawyers anxious to file a Microsoft-style lawsuit.
I love Google. I own 20 shares in my retirement account. I use it constantly when writing stories like this one. I'm about to buy my second Android phone. But Apple (AAPL) shares began rolling over a few months ago, Amazon.com (AMZN) shares have run into headwinds over the last month, and even Google isn't immune to financial gravity.
At the time of publication the author had a position in GOOG.
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