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Better Buy: Facebook, Inc. vs. Google

By Joe Tenebruso - Oct 2, 2017 at 8:45PM

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We square off these two tech titans to see which is the best deal today.

Few businesses are as dominant in their respective industries as Facebook (META -0.76%) and Google. Facebook dwarfs other social media platforms with its more than 2 billion users, while Google is the unquestioned leader in global internet search with a 90% share.

As these companies have achieved their supremacy, they've created enormous wealth for their investors along the way. But which is the better buy today? Read on to find out.

Two chess piece kings on a chessboard adjacent to each other

Image source: Getty Images.

Financial fortitude

Facebook and Google are incredibly profitable businesses, but let's take a look at some key metrics to see if either one has an edge when it comes to financial strength. Also, please note that Google reorganized itself as Alphabet (GOOGL -0.21%) (GOOG -0.27%) in 2015, so we'll use Alphabet's figures from this point forward.

Metric

Facebook

Alphabet

Revenue

$33.2 billion

$99.3 billion

EBITDA

$18.1 billion

$30.6 billion

Net Income

$13.2 billion

$19.3 billion

Operating cash flow

$19.4 billion

$36.2 billion

Free cash flow

$14.3 billion

$25.2 billion

Cash

$35.5 billion

$94.7 billion

Debt

N/A

$4.0 billion

Data source: Morningstar, Yahoo! Finance.

Facebook is a financial fortress, with more than $14 billion in annual free cash flow generation and $35.5 billion in cash on its pristine balance sheet. Yet, incredibly, Alphabet's financials are even more remarkable; the search titan has more than $94 billion in net cash in its coffers and generates $25 billion in annual free cash flow. So in terms of financial strength, Alphabet earns top marks.

Advantage: Alphabet

Growth

Facebook's revenue and earnings growth has far exceeded Alphabet's in recent years.

FB Revenue (TTM) Chart

FB Revenue (TTM) data by YCharts.

This trend is likely to continue, with analysts forecasting that Facebook will increase its earnings per share at more than 25% annually over the next half-decade, fueled by the growth of mobile video and the social media juggernaut's Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp platforms. During this same time, Alphabet's EPS is projected to grow at a 19% annualized rate, driven by the continued growth of mobile search and the company's popular YouTube video site.

For businesses this size -- Facebook and Alphabet's market caps currently check in at $496 billion and $669 billion, respectively -- these growth rates are impressive. But with a significantly higher earnings growth forecast for the next five years, Facebook has the edge over Alphabet.

Advantage: Facebook

Valuation

No better buy discussion should take place without a look at valuation. Let's check out some key value metrics for Facebook and Alphabet, including price-to-earnings and price-to-free-cash-flow ratios.

Metric 

Facebook

Alphabet (Class A shares)

Trailing P/E ratio

38.24

35.29

Forward P/E ratio

26.13

24.33

P/FCF

34.69

26.49

Data sources: Yahoo! Finance, Morningstar.

On all three metrics, Alphabet's stock is considerably less expensive than Facebook's, making the search king the better bargain. 

Advantage: Alphabet

The better buy is... 

In a close match, Alphabet comes out ahead by a narrow margin. The search giant's superior financial strength and more attractively priced stock puts it a notch above the faster-growing Facebook. These are both excellent businesses, but Alphabet is the better buy today.

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Stocks Mentioned

Meta Platforms, Inc. Stock Quote
Meta Platforms, Inc.
META
$160.03 (-0.76%) $-1.22
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL
$2,174.75 (-0.21%) $-4.51
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOG
$2,181.62 (-0.27%) $-5.83

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