Is Alphabet’s Google (GOOG) facing its greatest test yet?
The search giant is under investigation by fifty attorneys general — from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — for antitrust violations. The bipartisan effort comes as US Big Tech is increasingly under the microscope by US federal, state and local governments, as only a few companies dominate and control the digital ad market and consumer data. This not only raises privacy concerns, as there is little oversight over tech’s use of data, but also questions as to whether there is even a market or legitimate competition in the industry.
Should investors be concerned? According to 5-star Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives, the answer is clearly ‘no,’ as he reiterates an Outperform rating on GOOGL stock, along with $1,500 price target.
Ives provides clarity over the investigation, saying it will “initially focus on whether Google is overly dominant in the online advertising market and in Internet search.” The analyst also looks at the broader picture, saying this is the “first step with the DOJ likely on a path to open federal antitrust reviews of large tech companies,” which could include Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), and Amazon (AMZN).
Overall, Ives believes the discussion of increased regulation is “more noise than the start of broader structural changes across the tech food chain,” and does not believe the government will force breakups or spin offs. But even if this were to happen, using an SOTP (some-of-the-parts) valuation method, Ives actually believes the likes of Google, Amazon, and Apple “would be re-rated higher in the unlikely scenario there were ever significant business model breakups.”
Ives looks specifically at whether the government could break up Big Tech based on size. The analyst stated, “the broad movement to break up companies solely because they are large will fail without a change to existing antitrust laws,” which must go through Congress and is “exceedingly unlikely.” Though Ives believes Congress will investigate, ultimately, Ives expect a ‘no harm, no foul’ outcome.
All in all, even as Big Tech is put under the microscope, Wall Street remains extremely optimistic on Alphabet, with TipRanks analytics showcasing the stock as a Strong Buy. Of 32 analyst ratings tracked in the past 3 months, 28 are Bullish, while only four are sidelined. The 32 analysts have an average price target of $1,404.35, which represents nearly 14% upside from current levels. (See GOOGL’s price targets and analyst ratings on TipRanks)