Morgan Stanley Lukewarm On Their Former And Google’s New CFO, Ruth Porat

Morgan Stanley Lukewarm On Their Former And Google’s New CFO, Ruth Porat
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Ruth Porat, the incoming CFO of Google is a strong fit for the search engine giant, according to analysts from several equity research firms. Google confirmed her appointment yesterday. She will be joining the search engine giant from Morgan Stanley, where she serves a similar position.

A positive development for Google

RBC Capital Markets analyst, Mark Mahaney and his team commented that Ms. Porat’s appointment is a positive development for Google. They described it as the “most capable hires” for the position.

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Mahaney and fellow analysts noted that Ms. Porat as a high profile and accomplished leader with experience in managing a very complex financial institution and unusually strong technology sector background.

According to the analysts, Google is the largest portfolio of internet investments. The company needs a CFO, who can handle a great complexity and understands the investments and opportunities of a rapidly evolving leader in the technology industry. They believe that Ms. Porat is the right person for the position.

In addition, Mahaney and his team believe that her appointment increases the likelihoods of two developments, which Google investors are focused— a potential cash back to shareholders and stronger opex management/discipline.

The analysts reiterated their Outperform rating and $650 price target for the shares of Google. They emphasized that Google “remains a secularly driven, extremely consistent revenue-growth company.”

UBS analysts state:

Ms. Porat spent over four years in the CFO role, presiding over a meaningful transition in Morgan Stanley’s business and helping put it on far stronger footing. The recently approved CCAR plan is a further step in that direction, allowing MS to return nearly 60% of earnings this year. On a personal level, this appears to be a highly attractive opportunity for Ms. Porat, and all these factors combine to give us confidence that the risk from this transition is likely to be relatively low.

Google’s new CFO increase level of expectations for change

But the most interesting report comes from another firm.

Morgan Stanley analyst, Benjamin Swinburne and his team (yes the Morgan Stanley where Ruth Porat was former CFO – we assume there is a firewall and all) commented that Ms. Porat appointment is positive, and she has an opportunity to change the perception about the company.

Swinburne and his team also believe that Ms. Porat is a good fit for the position because of his background as CFO and former technology banker. They noted that during her tenure at Morgan Stanley, her focus with analysts and investors was on “setting clear targets and providing transparency into key areas of interests.”

The analysts also emphasized that Ms. Porat has extensive experience in dealing with regulatory issues. According to them, Ms. Porat’s appointment will increase the level of expectations for change at Google.

However, the Morgan Stanley analysts note that Google Investors are clamoring for greater visibility into spending plan, greater transparency into revenue trends, and a change in capital allocation given its $74 billion in net cash.

The research note ends off by stating:

While we are encouraged by Ruth’s hire, we wait and see if tangible change will come. 

Turf wars or not – pretty harsh note coming from sell-side analysts who are notoriously bullish, especially when considering the fact they are talking about their  “ex-boss”.

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