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Citigroup Deep Dives Into Google, Says Company Is An 'Enigma'

Citigroup Deep Dives Into Google, Says Company Is An 'Enigma'
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In a report published Friday, Citigroup analyst Mark May commented that Google Inc (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has become an "enigma" among investors as it "arguably remains among the most important companies."

May offered a "deep dive" analysis into six key issues that investors are debating:

1. Search: With desktop search still representing 60 percent of gross revenues, mobile click growth potentially slowing, and app search still a "work in progress," Google's search growth could slow. Nevertheless, May noted that "this appears reflected in expectations" while app search and mobile Web remain "opportunities."

2. Capital Returns: According to May, the consensus view is that it's unlikely a return of capital is in the company's near-term plans. The analyst added that a buyback would limit upside but a dividend "might make sense."

3. Valuation: May wrote: "While the absolute multiple is not among the lowest, its price-to-growth multiple is."

4. Margins & Capex: May noted that there is a shift toward lower margin businesses and the company remains in "growth investment mode," management has nevertheless suggested "more restraint" in 2015.

5. Safari Risk: May hypothesized that there is a greater than 50 percent likelihood of a non-renewal of the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) Safari search deal. However, the analyst added that the financial impact "may be less than feared."

6. Competitive Threat: One of the main concerns remains how Google will compete with Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB). May commented that Facebook's "people-based approach" is indeed a "real threat," but this will play out over time and Google has opportunities to close the data gap with Facebook.

Bottom line, May stated that "while uncertainty exists, concerns have likely been overblown and there is a path to meaningful upside."

Shares of Google remain Buy rated with a price target raised to $682 from a previous $629.

Latest Ratings for GOOG

Jul 2017Deutsche BankMaintainsBuy
Jan 2017Pacific CrestReinstatesOverweight
Jul 2016JP MorganMaintainsOverweight

View More Analyst Ratings for GOOG
View the Latest Analyst Ratings

Posted-In: Citigroup Google Search Mark May Safari SearchAnalyst Color Price Target Analyst Ratings Best of Benzinga


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