Posts tagged ‘Google’

Investors Slowly Waking to Technology Tailwinds

In recent years, investors have been overwhelmingly been distracted by geopolitical headlines and risk aversion caused by the worst financial crisis in a generation. In the background, the tailwinds of technological innovation have been silently gaining momentum. Although this topic is nothing new for Investing Caffeine followers, the outperformance of technology stocks has been pretty stunning in 2017 (see chart below), with the S&P 500 Technology sector rising almost +20% versus the Non-Tech sector eking out a little more than +1% return. Peered through the style lenses of Growth versus Value, technology’s contribution is also evident by the Russell 1000 Growth index’s 2017 outperformance over the Russell 1000 Value index by +11% (approximately +14% vs +3%, respectively).

Source: Bloomberg via The Financial Times

More specifically, what’s driving a significant portion of this outperformance? Robin Wigglesworth from The Financial Times highlighted a key contributing trend here:

“Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Netflix have all gained over 30 per cent this year, and Google is up 24 per cent. Their total market capitalisation now stands at $2.4 trillion. That makes them bigger than the French CAC 40 or Germany’s Dax, and nearly as large as the FTSE 100.”

 

Technology’s domination has been even more impressive since the cycle bottom of stock prices in 2009, if one contrasts the stark difference in the performance of the tech-heavy NASDAQ versus the more sector-balanced S&P 500. Over this timeframe, the NASDAQ has more than quadrupled in value and beaten the S&P 500 by more than +120%.

While the mass media likes to talk about technology bubbles, artificial money printing by global central banks, and imminent recessions, for years I have been highlighting the importance of the technology revolution and its beneficial impact on stock prices. Here are a few examples:

Technology Does Not Sleep in a Recession (2009)

Technology Revolution Raises Tide (2010)

NASDAQ and the R&D Tech Revolution (2014)

NASDAQ 5,000…Irrational Exuberance Déjà Vu? (2014)

The Traitorous 8 and Birth of Silicon Valley (2016)

As I have explained in many of my previous writings, the important factors of technology, globalization, and demographics have been the key driving forces behind the stock bull market and multi-decade decline in interest rates – not Quantitative Easing (QE) and/or rising debt levels.

Eventually, undoubtedly, euphoria and over-investment will lead to a cyclically-driven recession caused by excess capacity (supply exceeding demand). Regardless of the timing of future economic cycles, the continued multi-generational advance in new technological innovations will continue to drive economic growth, disinflation, improved standards of living, and higher stock prices. Until the animal spirits of the masses fully embrace this technological trend, Sidoxia and its clients will enjoy the tailwind of innovation as I continue to discover attractive investment opportunities.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own FB, AAPL, AMZN, GOOG/L, certain exchange traded funds, and short position in NFLX, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

May 27, 2017 at 11:55 am 1 comment

Google Caught Naked: Their Loss, Your Gain?

Google Inc. (GOOG) got caught naked yesterday with the early release of its lackluster numbers and “Pending Larry Quote,” but is Google’s loss your gain? An endless number of bloggers and media outlets were quick to jump on the bandwagon, highlighting the sophomor-ish early dissemination of quarterly results, and then simultaneously headlines were blasted about a -20% drop in profits.

I love these sensationalist headlines that I hear chirped in the local Starbucks (SBUX), on the elevator, or at the grocery store. The Armageddon headlines and cascading minute-by-minute charts make for entertaining viewing, but the gaudy $40 billion in cash piling up on Google’s balance sheet, including the measly $3 billion it added in the quarter, may also be news-worthy. Fear sells more than greed, which may explain why there is little mention of Google’s +45% revenue growth (equally misleading because of the Motorola deal). Let me remind you, the $3 billion of cold hard cash created in a single 90 day period is the equivalent size of many large established companies – companies like Groupon Inc. (GRPN), Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), and Weight Watchers International Inc. (WTW).

If people could take off their panic caps for a minute, they would be able to see the explosion in smart phones (now around 1 billion)  is on pace to swell to 5 billion over the next decade. What will that mean for a market leader like Google with over ½ billion Android devices that is activating 1.3 million more every day? I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to venture it is going to mean a lot of dough for Google. What further inspires my confidence? Well, the fact that Google’s mobile related revenues have gone from $2.5 billion run rate last year to over $8 billion today indicates they are on the right track.

Google got caught naked with its press release flub, and the frail Motorola acquisition may cause a little indigestion in the coming quarters, but any short-run Google losses may be your opportunity for long-term gains.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs) and GOOG, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in SBUX, TSLA, GRPN, WTW,  or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

October 19, 2012 at 10:49 am Leave a comment

August Shakes, Rattles, and Swirls

Shake, Rattle, & Swirl: Category 3 hurricane Irene pounded the eastern seaboard with winds reaching 110 miles per hour, knocking out power in an estimated 8 million homes and businesses. Some analysts estimate the damage to be somewhere between $7 billion and $10 billion. If that wasn’t enough, earlier in the same week, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake rippled from its Virginia epicenter up to Maine rattling both buildings and people’s nerves.

Volatility Spikes in August: Volatility, as measured by the Volatility Index (VIX – a.k.a. “Fear Gauge”), reared its ugly head again in August, reaching a level exceeding 44 (Source: Hays Advisory). This reading has only been experienced nine times in the last 25 years. Historically, on average, these have been excellent buying points for long-term investors.

Steve Jobs Lets Go of Reins: After being Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc. (AAPL – formerly Apple Computers) for more than 20 years, Steve Jobs passed the CEO reins over to Tim Cook, who has been with the company for 13 years (including interim CEO). Jobs will remain on board as Chairman of Apple and still provide assistance in a more limited capacity.

Buffett Puts Dry Powder to Work: Billionaire Warren Buffett is putting his money where his mouth is. Although he is one of a few wealthy individuals griping about too LOW income taxes (NYT OpEd), at least he is using some of his extra bucks to support the country’s financial system. More specifically, Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRKA) is investing $5 billion in troubled banking giant Bank of America Corp.’s (BAC) preferred stock (paying a 6% dividend), with warrants to buy additional stock in the future at a mutually prearranged price.

Google Buys Motorola Mobility: Google Inc. (GOOG) agreed to pay $12.5 billion to buy cellphone maker Motorola Mobility Holdings (MMI) in a move designed to protect the internet giant, and its partners, against patent litigation as it pertains to the Google Android mobile phone operating system. that could shake up the balance of power among among tech rivals. Time will tell whether Motorola’s assets will providing valuable resources for Google’s partners (i.e., HTC, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics) or whether the acquisition will create competitive conflicts.

ECB Buys some Bonds:The European Central Bank (ECB), Europe’s equivalent of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, began buying up billions of dollars in Spanish and Italian bonds last month. The goal of the bond buying program is to stem any potential contagion effect arising from debt crises occurring in countries like Greece, Portugal, and Ireland.

 

Quote of the Month

On Volatility:

“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.”

Swedish Proverb 

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: For those taking this article seriously, please look up “parody” in the dictionary. Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, GOOG, and AAPL, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in BRKA, MMI, HTC,
LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page

September 3, 2011 at 8:32 am 1 comment

Microsoft’s Hand Caught in Google Cookie Jar

Source: Photobucket

The globalized world we live in has become ever-more connected (see Globalization Train), and the recent events in Egypt where mass protests were organized, in large part by Facebook and Twitter, only goes to show the importance technology plays in our daily lives. As a result of our tight global links and the advancement of technology, product cycles have only become shorter and more competitive, raising the stakes for business success. The expanded field of cut-throat competitors in a digital age has also increased the value of intellectual property (IP). Increasingly, lawyers and judges are being forced to decipher the obscure realm of bits and bytes and vigorously defend unique IP from competitors.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Copy Them

Case in point is the current war of code-words between Google Inc. (GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT). Google claims they have caught Microsoft’s hand in the corporate espionage cookie jar by watching Microsoft effectively steal Google’s algorithmic search code for the software giant’s Bing search service. How can Google make such harsh and direct accusations? Google claims to have set up “synthetic” searches, which were designed as digital booby traps. Based on Google’s story, Microsoft appears to have taken the bait…hook, line, and sinker.

You be the judge. Here was the synthetic search result for “indoswiftjobinproduction” when entered in Google:

Source: Search Engine Land

This is the response when the same search term “indoswiftjobinproduction” was keyed in on Microsoft’s Bing search service:

Source: Search Engine Land

Coincidence? Perhaps. Likely? No.

Well, maybe lightning just struck with the “indoswiftjobinproduction” search term gibberish – why not try another?

This is what Google’s search results created when “mbzrxpgjys” was entered:

Source: Search Engine Land

When the same “mbzrxpgjys” term was inputted into Microsoft’s Bing, here was the result:

Source: Search Engine Land

Hmmm, I seem to be detecting a pattern here.

Is Microsoft’s apparent copycat behavior illegal? The evidence for the moment doesn’t appear to be clear, thanks mostly to the fine-print legalese of confusing check boxes that nobody reads when downloading or using any internet service. Evidently, many Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) users have unknowingly provided Google search information typed in through Microsoft’s IE browser, and the Redmond behemoth has been using this information to sharpen their search algorithms.

So if this behavior is not illegal, then should this activity be considered cheating? Here’s what Amit Singhal, a Google executive who oversees the company’s search engine ranking algorithm has to say about the issue:

“It’s cheating to me because we work incredibly hard and have done so for years but they just get there based on our hard work…I don’t know how else to call it but plain and simple cheating. Another analogy is that it’s like running a marathon and carrying someone else on your back, who jumps off just before the finish line.”

 

I’m sure this will not be the last we hear on the subject of technology and corporate cheating. As a matter of fact, in the field of intellectual property crimes, French-Japanese car giant Renault-Nissan recently brought the case of industrial espionage, corruption, theft, stolen goods, and conspiracy against three senior Renault executives. The allegations of selling crucial electric car information to the Chinese raised concerns to a feverish pitch in the tabloids because so much can be gained or lost by those involved in this estimated $2 trillion electric car market.  

The committing of crimes is nothing new, but the types of new crimes are changing. In a globalized world increasingly dominated by technology, perpetrators better think twice about committing these invisible crimes. Cheating may taste sweet, until you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar.

Read More about the GoogleMicrosoft Tiff

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP® 

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds and GOOG, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in MSFT, Facebook, Twitter, Renault, Nissan, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

February 5, 2011 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment

Groupon: From $0 to $6 Billion in 26 Months

Click Here to View Interview

Between football and basketball television viewing, along with non-stop eating, I have found little time to update Investing Caffeine. However, between Oreo and eggnog curls I did find time to plop on the couch and watch an interesting interview with Groupon CEO, Andrew Mason. This is the internet-based coupon company that started operations in November 2008 and has already grown to 40 million members (adding 3 million per week). Within 26 short months, Groupon has already established a presence within 35 countries and supposedly garnered a $6 billion takeover offer from Google (GOOG).

Regardless of whether Groupon becomes a multi-billion division of Google, I’m certain Mr. Mason’s wallet has grown fatter over this year, just as I sit down for another 4,000 calorie, belt-busting, holiday meal.  Happy viewing and Happy New Year!

Related Article: Valuing Facebook & Twitter  

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP® 

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds and GOOG, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in Groupon, KFT, or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

December 27, 2010 at 12:35 am 1 comment

The Internet: The Fourth Necessity

The basic necessities for human life are food, water, shelter and most importantly…the internet. Imagine a world where you cannot: access your email; text your spouse or significant other in the same house; Twitter the contents of your lunch; or Facebook a YouTube video of a dancing meringue dog (see video).  Scary thought.

Many people take the internet for granted, just like the air we breathe, but how important a role does the internet play in people’s lives? Mary Meeker, internet analyst from Morgan Stanley, takes a look at this question in a recently released presentation she completed. Earlier in the decade, Meeker was raked over the coals during the deflation of the internet bubble, but in many respects she has been redeemed in the subsequent years as hundreds of millions of people continue to plug into the internet.

According to the broad base of expert strategists, we apparently are living in an overvalued, “New Normal ” market with subdued growth for as far as the eye can see (check out New Abnormal). In the mean time Meeker shows how the top 15 global internet franchises have nearly quadrupled revenue from $33 billion in 2004 to $126 billion today. Perhaps abnormally outsized opportunities in the corporate internet universe will be the “New Normal” over the coming years?

Internet Ubiquity

Source: Morgan Stanley

How ubiquitous is the internet becoming? Last year 1.8 billion people accessed this invisible global flattening medium we like to call the internet, and users spent 18.8 trillion minutes online, up +21% over the previous year. Many people are very familiar with the home-bred internet franchises of Facebook (620 million users), Google (940 million users), and Apple (120 million internet device users), but many investors under-appreciate the global scale of international internet franchises like Tencent (637 million users…more than Facebook by the way), Baidu ($40 billion market value), or Alibaba.com ($10 billion market value).

Source: Morgan Stanley

Mobile ubiquity is on the rise too. Connecting through a desktop or laptop is not enough these days, so internet addicts are increasingly attaching a mobile phone umbilical cord for such useful bathroom applications such as this (click here). Lugging a laptop around all over the place can be an inconvenience. So primal is the mobile instinct among internet users, Morgan Stanley expects mobile phone shipments to surpass PC and laptop shipments over the next 24 months.

What’s Next?

The party is just getting started. If you just consider eCommerce (purchases online), which only accounts for 4% of total commerce conducted in the U.S., then there is a lot of headroom for internet purchases to expand. The incredible potential rings true especially if you contemplate old traditional catalog, which peaked at more than 10% of overall commerce according to some industry executives. The rich feature functionality afforded to users through the internet, coupled with the increased convenience of mobility, augur well for future ecommerce sales growth.

The internet has been around for 15 years, but in the whole scheme of things this transformative medium is just a baby – especially if you consider the amount of time it took other revolutions like electricity, the rail network, and automobile proliferation to spread.  That is why it is not too late to join the internet party.  Food, water, and shelter are human necessities of life, just like exposure to the internet revolution is a necessity for your investment portfolio.

Read the Morgan Stanley Internet Presentation by Mary Meeker

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP® 

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

http://www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, AAPL and GOOG, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in MS, BIDU, Tencent, Alibaba.com, Facebook, Twitter, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

November 19, 2010 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

Digging for iPad Gold with Simplicity

We live in a hyper global competitive world, yet some companies manage to find gold while others unsuccessfully dig for their dreams. What is a major determinant of great companies? Apple Inc. (AAPL), and other companies, may include “simplicity” as a key ingredient. Take the iPad for example. Already the company has successfully exceeded iPad sales target thanks to the shrewd marketing of the simple touch-screen technology. Some call it a glorified iPhone because the iPad uses a very similar interface on a larger scale. Nonetheless, the device is getting rave reviews from the likes of US Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, and as Stephen Colbert smartly pointed out in his video (below), the iPad even makes salsa to boot.  Many estimates point to more than a half million units sold in the first few weeks, making the 2010 estimates of 3-4 million units sold likely too low.

CLICK HERE TO SEE IPAD VIDEO

Competition Not a Game Killer

How much more competitive can the personal computer and cell phone markets be? According to the United Nations, we will reach 5 billion subscribers in 2010. With pricing pressure galore, and new Asian competitors popping up all over the place, how can companies grow, let alone make profits? Ever since the revolutionary iPhone was introduced in 2007, rivals have attempted to copy-cat the device. In the meantime, Apple continues to gain market share while they sit on close to $40 billion in cash, not to mention the flood of new cash rolling in the doors ($10+ billion in free cash flow generated in calendar 2009).

Innovation and the Remote Control

One key driver of profitability is innovation, but an elegant solution driven by an out-of-touch engineer with consumer demands will only lead to share losses and headaches. I mean how many times have you pulled your hair out trying to navigate through a 100-button TV remote control or screamed in frustration from attempting to learn a non-Wii videogame?

But Apple is not the only company to find simplicity in its quest for profit domination. In order to be a massive juggernaut like Apple Inc., a company’s product or service must gain mass appeal. A key determinant for mass appeal is simplicity. Beyond Apple, think of other dominant franchises that also operate in massively competitive markets like Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) in retail; Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) in coffee; Google Inc. (GOOG) in internet advertising; Coca Cola Co. (KO) in soda; Netflix Inc. (NFLX) in video rentals, among a host of other category killers. Many of these corporate giants offer products we cannot function or live without. I still find it utterly amazing that my children will never know what life was really like without an internet search on Google or a Caffe Misto Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks.

All Good Things Come to an End

It’s not clear how much longer these titans of corporate America can thrive. By innovating new products that improve lives in some way, these Dancing Elephants will continue to prosper. But nothing in the stock market is static, so investors should pay attention to several potential derailing factors:

  • Valuations: Valuations are extremely important in determining long-run appreciation potential, and chasing winners solely based on momentum (see related article) can lead to problems.
  • Market Share Losses: What will be the next computer, cell phone, or e-reader killer? I don’t know right now, but eventually the day will come where these leaders will lose market share to a new kid on the block.
  • Rising Costs: Competition is not the only factor in leading to slowing sales and declining profit margins. Inflation either related to labor or other input costs can crimp profits and decay investor appetites.
  • Too Big to Succeed: There has been a lot of talk about “too big to fail,” but I strongly believe companies reach a point where they become “too big to succeed.” Either the law of large numbers catches up with these companies making simple math more challenging (think of the supertanker Wal-Mart growing its $400+ billion revenue base), or regulatory scrutiny kicks in (think of Microsoft Corp. [MSFT] and Intel Corp [INTC]).

Size: Peeling More of the Onion

Success can continue for these giants, however at some point “size” becomes a headwind rather than a tailwind. Just as simply as a train can speed down a railway at over 100+miles per hour, under the right conditions the train can derail as well. As Warren Buffett states, when referring to a company’s growth prospects relative to size, “Gravity always wins.”

However, investors should remind themselves that gains can last longer than expected too. Finding “ginormous” winners in many ways is like finding a needle in a haystack. But even if you find the needle in the haystack relatively late in a company’s growth cycle (see Equity Life Cycle story), in many instances there can be a lot of appreciation potential still available. Take Wal-Mart (WMT) for example. If you bought Wal-Mart shares after it rose 10-fold during its first 10 years, you still could have achieved a 60x return over the next 30 years.

 Time will tell if Apple will strike additional gold with its iPad introduction, nonetheless Steve Jobs has found an element present in many long-term successful companies…simplicity.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds and AAPL, WMT, GOOG, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in MSFT, SBUX, KO, INTC, NFLX, Nintendo or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

April 16, 2010 at 1:04 pm Leave a comment

Google: The Quiet Steamroller

As Google Inc. (GOOG) has proceeded to steamroll most of its competition on the global advertising roads, they are learning to tread a little more lightly in hopes of avoiding unneeded scrutiny. There are very few places to hide, when your company is on track to achieve more than $20 billion in annual sales and is valued at more than $175 billion in the marketplace.

As Google revenues continue to rise and they look to take over the world (including their position in China), they are enlisting others to assist them in Washington as well. Through three quarters of 2009, the company increased their lobbyist budget by 41% to approximately $3 million, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Google Eating Bite Sized Acquisitions

Ever since the controversy caused by Google’s $3.1 billion takeover of web advertising network company DoubleClick (2007 announcement), and the failed joint search agreement with Yahoo! (YHOO) in 2008 due to government and advertiser concerns, Google has decided to consume smaller bite-sized companies as part of its acquisition strategy. Over the last five months alone, Google has acquired eight different small companies (generally less than $50 million acquisition price), including the following: 1) Picknik (photo editing website); 2) reMail (mobile search applications); 3) Aardvark (social networking focus); and 4) AdMob ($750 million mobile advertising network deal). Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, has stated he would like to do one smaller-sized acquisition per month. Google management also believes they have lowered the inherent risk in these smaller deals because of legacy ties to target companies – all these sought after companies house former Google employees, says Bloomberg.  In addition to remaining below the radar, the string of small deals act as a supplement to Google’s hiring practices, which can become challenging in a scarce qualified engineering hiring environment.

Microsoft Pot Calling Kettle Black

Microsoft (MSFT), the behemoth software giant with monopoly-like market share in the PC operating system market, is now fighting back against growing giant Google. This effectively amounts to the pot calling the kettle black, given Microsoft has already paid about $2.44 billion in fines to EU (European Union) relating to antitrust actions in the past 10 years, according to TechCrunch. Nonetheless, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is not shy about throwing Google under the bus, stating Google is not playing fair in the search market.  Furthermore, Microsoft has filed an antitrust complaint against Google in Europe as it relates to Ciao, an online shopping service powered by Microsoft, and cried foul over an agreement Google made with book publishers and authors on a separate project.

Google is not stupid. They have witnessed massive monopolistic companies like Microsoft and Intel (INTC) butt heads with regulators and pay billions in fines. Needless to say, Google will do everything in its power to avoid additional, unwanted oversight, while quietly driving their steamroller over the competition.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds and GOOG, but at time of publishing had no direct position in MSFT, INTC, YHOO,  or any other security referenced. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

March 9, 2010 at 11:30 pm 1 comment

Google vs. China: Running Away from 660 Million Eyeballs?

Wait, let me get this straight. Google, the $185 billion behemoth that wants to take over the world is seriously considering turning its back on a rapidly growing cluster of 660 million eyeballs (330 million Chinese internet users according to BusinessWeek)? After hitting their head on an obscenely high market share in the U.S. (67% search share based on Nielsen data) and looking for new geographies to expand, I’m supposed to believe Google will walk away from the third largest economy on this planet (see China: Trade of the Century)? The explanation given for Google’s capitulation is discontent related to unknown hackers and censorship concerns. If that’s not enough, this alleged saint-like posturing comes after Google sold its censorship soul for years, before seeing the free speech light. Although the company’s mission is to “do no evil,” Google had no qualms aggressively poaching Microsoft (MSFT) miracle maker, Kai-Fu Lee, to kick-start their Chinese presence. If free speech is truly at the root of the Google’s unease, then why wait four whole years and a hack-attack before laying down an ultimatum on the Chinese government?

I Smell a Rat

In a blog post written by Google’s Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, the company explains how their iron curtain digital defense was bent but not broken:

“We have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.”

 

I’m no exterminator, but I smell a rat. All this feels a lot more like politics and business tactics then it does an altruistic display of free-speech martyrdom. The Chinese government and Google executives know what is at risk, as they both play a high stakes game of “chicken.”

Google goes onto say:

“As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted.”

 

I’m confused. These unknown hackers attacked 20 different companies and only unsuccessfully cracked two Gmail accounts. The evidence sounds pretty harmless on the surface, if this language is representative of reality. Maybe I’m wrong, and a foiled cyber-attack is reason enough to cease operations in a country inhabiting a potential 1.3 billion customers.  

Sure China represents a relatively small portion of Google’s revenues (estimated at less than $1 billion and a single digit percentage of revenues), but Google would be insane to walk away from this massive long-term growth market, even if Baidu (BIDU) is currently eating their lunch. Although Google has a smaller #2 position in China, it still has a respectable 35.6% search market share (according to BusinessWeek).

Not Just About Search – Cell Phones Too

Even if they claimed they were throwing in the white towel on their Chinese search business, I don’t think they really want to flush their newly minted cell phone prospects down the toilet. Even if 275 million or so cell phone users in the U.S. is fertile ground for Google to target their new Android-based phones, I’m guessing they have penciled out the gigantic mobile potential of the rapidly expanding 700 million+ Chinese mobile phone user market.

While I can’t take the scenario of Google ceasing China operations off the table, I consider the chance of Google shutting its doors in China significantly less than 50%. While the bold Google statement of feasibility review regarding their Chinese business existence has gained a lot of attention, I think calmer heads will eventually prevail and Google will resume their targeting of 660 million Chinese eyeballs. Who knows, the high stake game of “chicken” may even benefit their bottom-line as they win the hearts and minds of more future free-speech users.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own GOOG shares and China based exchange traded funds at the time of this article’s publishing, but did not have a direct position in MSFT and BIDU shares. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

January 14, 2010 at 12:31 am 2 comments

Quarterly Earnings Avalanche – What the %&*$# is Going On?

Avalanche

Last week we received an avalanche of earnings reports (with a ton more reporting this week) and investors are now interpreting the data.

The recent stock market rally can be simply boiled down to companies releasing better than expected quarterly earnings.  As my great pal Peter Lynch says, “People may bet on hourly wiggles of the market but it’s the earnings that waggle the wiggle long term.” A whopping 77% of S&P 500 companies that have reported Q2 (June) earnings thus far have reported earnings results better than Wall Street expectations. Earnings estimates are being ratcheted up for the first time since August 2007. Intel got the party started in the technology world, trouncing both top and bottom line estimates. Certainly, overall, the top line results for corporations have been more challenging and mixed. However, with additional earnings available to companies, more resources can be plowed back into future marketing and revenue generating activities. Moreover, due to the extreme cost-cutting measures taken, once the economy recovers, corporations will be able to tap into the enormous earnings power potential created.

Profit Scorecard

Click Here for CNBC Quarterly Earnings Recap

Across all industries, whether it’s Fred Smith (CEO at FedEx) or Eric Schmidt (CEO at Google), we’re hearing a common theme that although the environment remains challenging, we have stabilized with the worst behind us. When and by what degree the economy turns around is still unclear, but all I know is that great companies don’t disappear in bear markets and as a country we have persevered through many, many recessions and financial crises in our history. In times like these, market leaders and industry innovators use their competitive advantages to step on the throats of their competitors and do whatever it takes to gain market share, so that when things actually do turn, the tide will carry them to the front of the pack.

Although the quarterly reported earnings coming out have in general been relatively anemic, investors should not sit idle.  I continue to scour income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements to see who is gaining share at the expense of their peers. At the end of the day those share gainers are the ones that will be growing earnings and cash flows the fastest when the economy turns. Investors shouldn’t forget the lessons of 2008 and 2009. Although not all the economic news headlines were bad in the first half of 2008 (as the stock market began its rapid descent), the same principle applies in reverse – as the market has rebounded from the March lows, not all the economic news has been encouraging. Volatility can in fact be a beautiful thing, if you have a disciplined systematic approach in place that opportunistically takes advantage of appealing prospects as they arise. Without doubt, the relative attractiveness of the overall market is less than it was in March 2009, but let’s not forget the stock market is still more than 35% below the market highs of late 2007.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

July 27, 2009 at 4:00 am Leave a comment


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