Alphabet earnings: Android antitrust fine will demolish Google profit
When Alphabet Inc. reports earnings Monday, the European Union’s $5.07 billion Android antitrust fine will ruin the company’s profit.
Alphabet GOOGL, -1.14%GOOG, -0.75% stock was relatively flat Wednesday, when the fine formally was announced, and Google has said it plans to appeal the fine. However, the company disclosed in an SEC filing that it will account for the fine in its second-quarter report, due Monday after the bell.
In terms of what it will cost the company in cash, the fine is not tax-deductible and worth roughly 75% of the company’s expected second-quarter net income of $6.72 billion, which will drastically lower per-share earnings as well. Since analyst estimates largely do not include the fine as of yet, Alphabet’s earnings are likely to miss published expectations on the bottom line by a significant amount.
See also: Google developing potential Android successor called Fuchsia
The question that remains beyond the fine itself is how Google, in the long-term, will respond to the ruling, which prevents the search giant from effectively forcing mobile phone makers and telecom companies to pre-install its search engine and Chrome web browser, among other Google mobile apps, in exchange for use of the Android OS. The ruling is set to go into effect in 90 days, though an appeal would delay implementation.
In a blog post published Wednesday, Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai essentially said that as a result of the ruling, Google may begin to charge device makers for its operating system, and that the company could also restrict Android distribution.
If the EU fine stands, as do the provisions attached, analysts say that it could impact the company’s products, but it may not affect the company’s profit in Europe.
“While Google indicated it will appeal the ruling, we believe potential solutions to come into compliance could include unbundl[ing] default apps in the EU and enabl[ing] device makers and mobile operators to decide which to install,” Raymond James analyst Aaron Kessler wrote in a note to clients late Wednesday. “While this could lead to lower Google search revenues in Europe, we believe losses would be minimal as Google has 90%-plus Europe search share.”
The last time the EU fined Google — a $2.74 billion levy that also was the result of an antitrust ruling — the Mountain View, Calif.-based company recorded the full amount in its financial statements immediately, even as it appealed. And as is likely this year, the fine delivered a substantial blow to the company’s per-share earnings and net income for 2017’s second quarter.
What to expect
Earnings: On average, analysts polled by FactSet model Alphabet second-quarter earnings of $9.67 a share. Contributors to Estimize, which crowdsources estimates from analysts, fund managers and academics, predict adjusted earnings of $9.81 a share, on average. Again, these estimates do not reflect the Android antitrust fine.
Sales: Analysts on average estimate Alphabet second-quarter sales at $25.58 billion after accounting for traffic-acquisition costs. The lion’s share of sales are from the company’s Google’s advertising business, with Google Other — hardware sales, cloud computing and app store sales — accounting for an estimated $4.4 billion. Other Bets is expected to produce $176 million in sales during the quarter. Estimize contributors predict overall revenue of $25.9 billion for the quarter.
Stock movement: Alphabet stock has gained 13% in the past three months, as the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.40% has gained 3.7% in the same period. Alphabet shares have climbed 16% this year.
Of the 45 analysts that cover Alphabet, 40 rate the stock the equivalent to a buy, according to FactSet. Five analysts rate the name a hold and none have a sell rating. The average price target is $1,276.68, 6.5% higher than Thursday’s closing price.
What analysts are saying: Amid the uncertainty of the EU ruling, Barclays analyst Ross Sandler wrote in a note to clients July 13 that he “would add to positions into Q2, full stop.” Sandler’s reasoning is straightforward: he expects Alphabet to beat the consensus for sites revenue, traffic acquisition costs and operating margins.
In a July note to clients, Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham wrote that two areas investors should watch for revenue growth are the company’s “Properties” segment, which includes search distribution partnerships, as well as Google-owned sites such as Gmail and YouTube. Alphabet does not break out YouTube revenue.
See also: The YouTube and Instagram secret that Google and Facebook don’t want you to know
“One of the newer components to recent success has been a rebound in desktop search revenue,” Graham wrote. “While it has been a callout for the last two quarters, we’re not sure it has much structural support going forward.” Graham has a hold rating on Alphabet stock with a target price of $1,050.
Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Shayim Patil wrote in a June note to clients that ad spend data appeared to meet his team’s expectations and growth was driven by product-listing advertisements — an area that Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, -1.63% has mounted a challenge in — which Patil said were growing faster than overall ad spending growth.
Patil has the equivalent of a buy rating on the stock with a $1,250 price target.
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