Alphabet (GOOGL -0.90%) (GOOG -0.84%) just obliterated expectations for the second quarter of 2021. Revenue was $61.88 billion, a whopping 62% increase from a year ago -- the period during the initial economic lockdowns when the Google parent reported its first year-over-year revenue decline ever.
The stock has now doubled since the start of 2020, but this is no overpriced tech titan. In spite of its imperfections, Alphabet is actually exhibiting some value stock characteristics, and it has a long road of investor returns ahead of it.
1. Multiple profit centers and counting
Google search advertising helped lead the way toward the big revenue gain in the quarter. The segment increased 68% and hauled in a massive $35.85 billion in sales. But the company has multiple ways of generating revenue these days. YouTube ads grew 84% year over year, and Google Network ads were up 60% as marketing activity rebounded dramatically from the early days of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Google Cloud grew sales 54% and is homing in on breakeven. Cloud operating losses came out to $591 million, a solid improvement from the $1.43 billion loss reported in the year-ago quarter. And "Google other" revenue (which includes various businesses like the Pixel hardware lineup, Google Play store, YouTube subscriptions, Google Pay, and more) was up 29% -- dragging down the overall growth rate but still a respectable showing.
At the moment, this is still a digital advertising company through and through. But Alphabet has successfully fostered multiple high-growth profit centers as part of its suite of services, a classic value-stock criterion that will help this company stay on its steady path.
2. A free-cash-flow machine
The Alphabet family isn't just growing the top line, though. It also churns out gobs of cash that it steadily returns to shareholders. In the second quarter, net income increased 166% year over year to $18.53 billion, while free cash flow also surged 91% to $16.39 billion. Based on those metrics, the stock currently trades for 29 times trailing 12-month net income and 31 times free cash flow -- not at all overpriced considering the profits and growth being generated.
Alphabet doesn't pay a dividend, but it does return plenty of capital in the form of share repurchases. The number of shares outstanding at the end of the second quarter was down about 2% from a year ago thanks to these buybacks, and management increased its program by $50 billion earlier this year. This certainly is no dividend income stock, but Alphabet is in the early stages of enhancing shareholder value by distributing some of its ample cash. Expect this policy to only grow more attractive over time.
3. Even with its flaws, Alphabet is a fantastic long-term bet
Like every great value stock, this one has its imperfections. In this case, Alphabet is facing constant legal battles over anticompetitive practices, and antitrust lawsuits could eventually break up the tech giant into smaller pieces. However, steady cash flow generation and an incredible cash stockpile make this the ultimate value stock -- even considering the potential legal issues.
Specifically, cash and marketable securities on hand of $135.87 billion (offset by debt of only $14.33 billion) help gloss over the flaws. Of all the tech behemoths out there, Alphabet has the largest cash hoard. If the company is forced to split up someday (even if successful, the court cases would likely take years), there is plenty of net cash to arm each of the pieces of the Alphabet empire (Google search, Google Cloud, YouTube, etc.) with plenty of money to ensure their future success. Even on their own, they would remain formidable tech investments.
Alphabet had a great second quarter, but there's still lots of sustainable growth left in the tank here as multiple secular growth trends like digital ads, cloud computing, and online entertainment propel the business higher. This is the ultimate value stock of the future.