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Google empire builders aren't "sharing" with investors...revenue up 51% but earnings up only 17%

After last quarter's earnings report by Google, I questioned whether Google was more interested in "empire building" spending than in rewarding shareholders (see point three of this previous post.)

  • I've heard lots of explanations why investors have soured on Google's stock:
    • Economic downturn (Google said no on its call)
    • Pay-per-click rates; (Google downplayed this in its call)
    • slowing traffic/searches... (ditto)
  • My simple explanation is that the "momentum pixie dust" that Google has been flying on for a long time -- simply came to back to earth.
    • Investors know what fuels "momentum pixie dust" is actual and expected earnings acceleration.

What blew away the "momentum pixie dust" surrounding Google's stock? At least for the time being?

  • Investors wised up, that in both reality and expectation, Google's management does not run Google for current shareholders, who mostly care about earnings momentum in this calendar year. Investors are increasingly reminded about what the founders said in their IPO document that they will run the company for the long long term.
    • That point -- of how long term -- really hit home with recent press reports that the the two founders and CEO Schmidt "bonded" in a personal committment/pact to each other in 2004 -- to stay in their Google leadership roles for 20 years!
      • Investors are now wondering is Google being run like a twenty-year bond?
      • If so, the go-go momentum investors are much less interested in the parking their money in suspended animation for the twenty-year intergallactic ride with Google's NASA-phile leadership.  
  • Importantly, it also really takes some serious empire-building and drunken-sailor-spending to have earnings only grow at 17% when revenue continues at an awe-inspiring, torrid 51% growth rate for a company this size.
  • Investors remember that Microsoft's stock went nowhere for about five years because Microsoft continued to heavily invest in their business and not milk the company's free cash flow for the benefit of current shareholders.
    • To the extent that the market views Google as unreliable in delivering predictable earnings growth momentum and as monumental overspenders... the go go momentum crowd will increasingly abandon Google and bring its high-flying stock to earth.

Bottomline:  The market appears to be wising up that Investors aren't going to enjoy predictable increasing earnings from the fastest growing large company in the world, because the empire-builder founders have spending plans for most all of whatever revenue the company can generate. 

  • In simplest terms, Google founders see increasing revenue as money burning a hole in their pocket to be spent, not as earnings to accumulate to generate shareholder wealth.
    • Now we better understand why Google founders only granted public shareholders one-tenth voting rights in their public shares...
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