Google’s Alphabet Move Improves Transparency

Google’s Alphabet Move Improves Transparency

Class A shares of Google climbed as much as 3.51% to $686.41 per share today after management announced their major reorganization plans on Monday. Analysts widely expect the reorganization will result in greater transparency, solving one of the major overhangs on Google shares.

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But just how much more transparency will investors get? In true Google fashion, this wasn’t made entirely clear in the announcement, and now analysts are speculating about the answer to that question.

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Google shuffles management

Under the reorganization, Google will form a parent company called Alphabet Holding. Underneath that parent company, the search giant will separate its core businesses of Search, Display Advertising YouTube, Android, Maps, and most of the other internet-related businesses from the more capital expenditure intensive businesses which require a lot more research and development, like Nest, Fiber, Google X, and other non-core businesses. The reorganization is being done for reporting purposes, and Google expects to release its first earnings report under the new structure in its fourth quarter report, which will be released early next year.

Most of Google’s key executives are moving to Alphabet, with Larry Page becoming CEO, Sergey Brin being president, Eric Schmidt as executive chairman, Ruth Porat as chief financial officer, and David Drummond as the SVP of Corporate Development. Sundar Pinchai ascends to the CEO post of Google, while Porat will be CFO of both Alphabet and Google.

Reading between the lines of Page’s post

Toward the end of the blog post in which Page made the announcement about the reorganization, he made some interesting references, explaining why they chose the name Alphabet. He explained how the alphabet was important for mankind and its most important invention and drew a comparison with Google Search. He went on to mention the term “alpha” as is used on Wall Street.

Barclays analyst Paul Vogel and his team believes Google is finally looking to appease investors by increasing transparency. They also think the reorganization is another sign of Porat making her presence as Google’s new CFO being felt and “opens an interesting dialogue of what is to come.”

Where will Google become more transparent?

Analysts from most firms agree that greater transparency is pretty much a given with Google’s new structure. RBC Capital Markets analysts Mark Mahaney and Rohit Kulkarni say it will give investors one of the four things they’ve been wanting for Google for some time, with the other three being consistent revenue growth, stable margins and cash back.

Specifically, they expect more transparency in Google’s core Search business. They believe the core ad segment may have EBITDA margins “well north of 60%” and say the new disclosures should make this clear. They also noted that Amazon, Netflix and other companies have previously benefited from offering investors greater transparency into their businesses and expect Google to benefit in much the same way.

They continue to see Google as “arguably the best portfolio play on the biggest Internet trends,” including the shift from mobile to multi-screens, the migration of TV ad budgets online, the rising importance of local internet, wearables, the Internet of Things, and others. The RBC team reiterated their Outperform rating and $750 per share price target on Google.

As a result of improving transparency regarding margins, UBS analyst Eric Sheridan and his team think Google could see its multiple expand, especially if those margins are better than investors and analysts currently believe they are. They also have a $750 per share price target and a Buy rating on Google.

Google upgraded by Stifel

Google’s restructuring announcement led Stifel analyst Scott Devitt and his team to upgrade its stock from Hold to Buy and set a price target of $850 per share. They also drew comparisons to Amazon’s improved transparency when it started breaking out numbers for the Amazon Web Services business.

Further, they compared Google to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, suggesting that Google could be the Berkshire of Internet with its new structure with Larry Page and Sergey Brin playing the roles of Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger. The Stifel team thinks Google shares may even surpass the return of the S&P 500 “for many years” as a result of the new structure.

Not all analysts are expecting much from Google

Of course some analysts are waiting to see just how much transparency Google will provide. Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser thinks most of Wall Street is being “overly optimistic” this early after the announcement in hoping for “discrete business unit break-outs for the display network business, YouTube, Doubleclick-related activities, Google Play, Android and Google’s other internet segments.

He seems to doubt that Google will break out its capital expenditures by reporting segment because this is not commonly done by companies with multiple reporting segments, as the company will be after the restructuring is complete. He thinks it is important for such a breakout to be included and that investors will be disappointed if Google doesn’t do it.

In general, he doesn’t think Wall Street will get as much transparency from Google as it is hoping to get. Wieser continues to rate the company as a Hold with a $620 per share price target.

More than just restructuring

In addition to the restructuring, the Stifel team also sees the next 12 to 18 months as being “significant for Google’s app-install efforts.” The search giant brought app-install ads out of beta in Google Play at the end of last month and extended them to the Google Display Network.

They think the second quarter of 2015 could end up being the “first of a series of quarters” in which the company either meets or exceeds consensus estimates, particularly in light of the stabilization of its gross margins.

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