At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." So you might think we'd be the last people to give virtual ink to such "news." And we would be -- if that were all we were doing.
But in "This Just In," we don't simply tell you what the analysts said. We'll also show you whether they know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS, our tool for rating stocks and analysts alike. With CAPS, we track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.
And speaking of the best...
Decisions, decisions. Do you buy Google
Or do you punt, and buy both, as Hudson Square Research just did?
Taking a year-end survey of the Internet sector, Hudson stumbled across two different buy theses that are perfect fits for Yahoo! and Google. Hudson believes Yahoo is a key beneficiary of the long-term trend of advertising dollars shifting from "traditional media" to "online." According to Hudson, "Yahoo benefits from this increased spend even if growth rates lag some of its faster-growing online competitors." (Such as Google.)
Moreover, mimicking my own buy thesis for the stock, Hudson notes that the company's "Asian assets" (Yahoo! Japan and Alibaba in China) "are one of the more promising growth opportunities for the company." (This just true for Yahoo. UPS
Two no-brainers are better than one
Turning next to Google, Hudson argues that the stock's sub-$600 share price undervalues the shares by a good 25%: "Continued product improvements, an accelerated shift of local advertising dollars online, and growth from emerging countries should drive double-digit search growth over the medium term."
Hudson dismisses the threat from Facebook as "overblown." Instead, the analyst notes that Google's share of "mobile searches are quickly becoming material" -- and profitable, as Google Instant search trounces Microsoft's
Let's go to the tape
For what it's worth, I agree with Hudson on pretty much all points. As I argued back in September, Yahoo's tie-up with Microsoft on search positions it to start generating $1 billion in annual free cash flow. So if you net out the reported value of its Alibaba stake, investors seem to be pricing the rest of Yahoo at an enterprise value of only $10 billion or thereabouts -- a clean EV/FCF ratio of 10, on an expected 13% grower. Cheap!
The value proposition is even easier to see at Google. Here you've got a company generating $8.6 billion in annual free cash flow, and priced at 22 times that sum. Net out the firm's $30 billion cash hoard, and the enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio drops to under 19. Granted, that's a slight premium to the 17.5% growth rate that most analysts assign Google. But it's a cheaper price than Google has fetched in years past ... and for the chance to own the premier name in all things Internet, I'll pay it gladly. (As you'll note from my disclosure statement below, I already have.)
Of course, one Fool's opinions may not mean much to you. So let me end today's column with a few words on the professional analyst who inspired this column. According to the assiduous records we keep on Hudson here at Motley Fool CAPS, this banker has a record of better than 60% accuracy on its stock recommendations. (That may not sound like much, but it's a heckuvalot better than most analysts manage.)
Since Google's role in mobile search plays such a large part in that pick, I should also mention that Hudson boasts a record of perfect 100% accuracy on every one of the Communications Equipment stocks it's ever recommended, including Nokia, Motorola, and even Ceragon Networks.
Will its advice to buy Google and Yahoo! prove similarly prescient? I think so -- but what do you think? Tell us below.
Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of Google. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 670 out of more than 170,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. FedEx is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Ceragon Networks is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection. United Parcel Service is a Motley Fool Income Investor choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of FedEx, Google, Microsoft, and United Parcel Service.
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