NEW YORK – Shares in Google Inc. (GOOG) hit a new benchmark of $600 Monday, fueled by investor confidence that the Web search leader's advertising technology will capitalize on new areas of the media industry.
Google shares briefly hit $600 for the first time early in its trading session on the Nasdaq, marking a key threshold for the company which priced its shares at $85 a piece at its initial public offering in 2004.
From its place as the leading site for conducting Internet searches, Google has branched into Web video with its purchase of YouTube, trod on Microsoft Corp's (MSFT) turf with e-mail and other Web-based applications, and taken aim at Yahoo Inc's stronghold in graphical display advertising.
At $187 billion, the company ranks eleventh among the largest companies on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index by market capitalization. The ranking puts them behind software maker Microsoft and network equipment company Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO), but ahead of retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT).
Some analysts see Google reaching $700 a share in the next year as it competes more fiercely with Yahoo (YHOO) and gains a foothold in new forms of Web marketing, including video.
Last Friday, Bear Stearns was the latest firm to say Google could hit the $700 mark, calling it one of the best operating companies it covers in the Internet sector.
"Google continues to gain market share in search queries while continuing to face a bevy of competitors," Bear Stearns analyst Robert Peck wrote in a note to clients.
"Further, Google's efforts in online video, radio, and print, have added a layer of value that is absent from its competitors' portfolio of offerings and which has the potential to yield significant financial rewards," Peck said.
Martin Pyykkonen of Global Crown Capital still has a $600 price target on Google, a view he will reevaluate after the company reports its third-quarter earnings next week.
"It's not going to be as easy to get to the next 100 points as it was the last," he said of Google's share price.
Google is trading at 31 times projected 2008 earnings, an attractive multiple given growth forecasts for the company and one that represents a discount to where Microsoft and Cisco shares were trading in their heyday, according to Pyykkonen.
"They are clearly No. 1 and not losing any ground there," he said.
Google was up 0.9 percent to $599.50 on the Nasdaq. The shares traded as high as $601.45 during the session.