It should come as no surprise to investors that Internet usage has skyrocketed in the past 10 years. The smartphone, which seemed like a luxury five years ago, has become almost ubiquitous, with pricing affordable for just about everybody. The Internet and interactive gaming analysts at UBS A.G. (NYSE: UBS) see very little potential upside to operating estimates broadly across their coverage universe.
Despite this lack of upside, the stocks they cover have been strong performers, both year to date and since the first-quarter earnings season. Accordingly, the analysts are taking a much more cautious approach to this earnings season and have a short list of stocks to buy that still have strong long-term potential for investors.
Expedia Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE) has been a solid performer as travel has increased dramatically since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. The U.S. Commerce Department expects international travel to the United States to continue growing over the next few years. Visitor volume currently is expected to increase 6% to 8% a year from 2012 to 2016, leading to a 49% increase in the number of users during the period. The UBS price target for the stock is $77. The Thomson/First Call estimate is $71. Investors are paid a tiny 0.8% dividend.
eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) is scheduled to report earnings after Wednesday’s closing bell. Though the stock has underperformed relative to its peers, the company boasts a strong balance sheet and promising growth in online payments. This may be the overall best stock for investors now, given that underperformance. UBS has a $64 price target, and the consensus target is $64.50.
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) may still go down in history as one of the largest IPO fiascos in the history of Wall Street. Overpriced and offering way too many shares for initial consumption, the stock has fallen back into the mid twenties and has roosted there most of the summer. The fact remains that Facebook has more than one billion worldwide users, who are increasing their time spent on the site. Advertising glitches and mobile applications are being addressed. UBS has a $30 price target for the stock, and the consensus stands at $33.
AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) was one of the companies that initially helped Americans get on the Internet. Following a disastrous purchase and subsequent separation from Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), the company basically has gone from an Internet service provider with content features to an ad-supported Web publishing company. AOL owns such notable brands as Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, MapQuest and Moviefone. UBS has $45 price target for the stock, while the consensus target is at $42.50.
IAC/InterActive Corp. (NASDAQ: IACI) is another Internet company that has gone through some notable changes, jettisoning several businesses, including its travel assets, just before the 2007 to 2009 recession. The top line fell between 2008 and 2009, before picking back up in 2010. It has grown each year since. The company owns second-tier search networks like Ask.com, dating sites like Match.com and a varied collection of entertainment and information websites. UBS has a $58 price objective, and the consensus for the stock is at $58. Investors are paid a 1.9% dividend.
The UBS team was notably bearish on Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA), Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) and TripAdvisor Inc. (NASDAQ: TRIP). They believe these stocks face a combination of near-term issues that include: a) high valuation, b) recent outperformance, c) revenue and margin headwinds, d) estimates that show little upside to Wall Street estimates and e) concerns around current guidance.
Investors who put a slice of the Internet in their portfolio may be doing themselves a large favor. Usage will continue to grow, and technology will continue to make content, and the ease of which it is obtained and consumed, even easier. That is a strong combination for future growth.