NEW YORK – Google Inc. (GOOG) may have warned investors that it is does not intend to be a conventional company, but one convention it cannot avoid is being reviewed by stock research analysts.
As of Friday — Google's second day of trading on the public markets — ThinkEquity Partners and Jefferies & Co. Inc. have a "buy" rating on the leading Internet search company, while American Technology Research has a "hold" rating on its shares.
Janco Partners Inc. has already put out a note on Google, and analyst Martin Pyykkonen said he intends to formally initiate coverage next week.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has told investors that it does not intend to manage its business to meet quarterly market expectations.
"In Warren Buffett's words, 'We won't 'smooth' quarterly or annual results: If earnings figures are lumpy when they reach headquarters, they will be lumpy when they reach you'," Google's prospectus states.
But consensus estimates are already forming for Google's earnings. According to Reuters Estimates, analysts, on average, currently expect Google to report third-quarter earnings per share of 36 cents on revenue of $724.2 million and fourth-quarter earnings per share of 42 cents on revenue of $786.8 million.
Taking a Long View
Google does not intend to give analysts much help when it comes to calculating their forecasts.
"Although we may discuss long-term trends in our business, we do not plan to give earnings guidance in the traditional sense," its filing states. "... A management team distracted by a series of short-term targets is as pointless as a dieter stepping on a scale every half hour."
On Friday Google shares rose 6.5 percent to $106.87 in active afternoon trading on the Nasdaq following a market debut that sent its shares up 18 percent to $100.34. Its IPO priced at $85 per share, which was below the initial estimate in the range of $108 to $135 each.
ThinkEquity's initiation note stated it was initiating Google with a "buy" rating and a price target of $120.
"Our price target of $120 assumes Google trades at the midpoint of its initial IPO pricing range. The 51x earnings multiple would then be similar to Yahoo's," the note stated.
The Jefferies note pegged Google's fair market value at $115 per share.
"With an estimated fair market value of $115 per share, we believe that the stock offers further upside from current levels. On a relative basis, the stock is trading at 18x our FY05 EBITDA estimate of $1.5 billion vs. Yahoo at 21.8x and eBay at 26.0x," its note stated.
American Technology Research analyst Mark Mahaney initiated coverage of Google with a "hold" rating.
"We view fair value for GOOG to be $110, which is 10 percent upside from here.... However, given the high level of risk in these shares — including the likelihood that the near-term catalysts are more likely to be negative than positive — we would want more of a discount before being aggressive buyers of GOOG. We would look for a 20 percent discount — around $92," he stated.
American Technology Research said the "bull" points for Google include: a strong outlook for online search, its leading position in the segment, impressive current fundamentals, a strong technology base, brand strength and significant international exposure.
The research firm said Google's "bear" points include: decelerating revenue growth and margin declines going forward, the Microsoft Search Train threat, limited revenue diversity, no public company execution track record, and lots of lockups.