Technology

SunTrust Says Buy Large Cap Internet Stocks Before Q3 Results

courtesy of Alibaba Group

The selling in the market last week, and really all through October, has proved to be somewhat of a shakeout for the large-cap momentum internet stocks, and despite the spike in volatility, the third-quarter results for many of the top stocks in the sector should prove to be solid. While it may make sense to make smaller purchases now, those with the risk tolerance for the large-cap players may be set for some solid gains the rest of the quarter.

A new SunTrust Robinson Humphrey research report, while acknowledging the recent market turmoil, remains very positive on some of the biggest stocks in the internet arena.

The report said this:

We believe third quarter 2018 results will show very healthy growth for our internet and digital media group, that’s at least commensurate with Street expectations, which should allay some industry specific fears. Macro/regulatory concerns, however, are likely to remain head winds short/medium term. We saw some relief last week as we entered third quarter earnings season, with the group outperforming the market.

Six mega-cap leaders are among the favorites and are rated Buy. They are listed here in the order of preference at SunTrust.

Amazon

This company is the absolute leader in online retail, and it recently opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York City. Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) serves consumers through retail websites that primarily include merchandise and content purchased for resale from vendors and those offered by third-party sellers.

The company serves developers and enterprises through Amazon Web Services, which provides computing, storage, database, analytics, applications and deployment services that enable virtually various businesses. AWS is also the undisputed leader in the cloud now, and many top analysts see the company expanding and moving up the enterprise information value chain and targeting a larger total addressable market.

Consistent with data from earlier in 2018, digital marketing users overwhelmingly cited Amazon as the fastest-growing channel for advertising budgets, while many retailers are also leveraging their Amazon advertising data to retarget users on other channels (namely Facebook) to drive traffic/ sales to their own websites (bypassing Amazon marketplace/FBA fees).

The SunTrust price target for the shares is $2,150, and the Wall Street consensus target is $2,164.21. The stock closed trading on Friday at $1,764.03.

Alphabet

The search giant continues to expand and, while search is king, the cloud presence is growing fast. Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) is a global technology company focused on key areas, such as search, advertising, operating systems and platforms, enterprise and hardware products. It generates revenue primarily by delivering online advertising and by selling apps and contents on Google Play, as well as hardware products. The company provides its products and services in more than 100 languages and in 190 countries, regions and territories.

Alphabet offers performance and brand advertising services. It operates through Google and Other Bets segments. The Google segment includes principal internet products, such as Search, Ads, Commerce, Maps, YouTube, Apps, Cloud, Android, Chrome and Google Play, as well as technical infrastructure and newer efforts, such as virtual reality.

The company blew out the latest earnings numbers, and with a wide and bountiful silo of products and services, the stock remains almost unchallenged. It should be noted that traffic acquisition cost relief drove 20% gross profit growth, despite heavy cloud infrastructure and YouTube content investment.

At a recent conference, Google outlined expanding capabilities to facilitate commerce, capitalizing on the “treasure trove” of data provided by seven different properties, each with at least a billion active users (Android, Search, Chrome, Maps, Play, YouTube and Gmail). Smart shopping campaigns leverage machine learning to make sense of touch points along the consumer purchase path, including better offline attribution capabilities (locally oriented searches up 200% over past two years) and improved purchase conversion rates (20% on average).

SunTrust has a $1,370 price target, and the consensus target is $1,383.82. Shares closed Friday at $1,105.18.

Alibaba

This red-hot momentum play has continued to be among the most bought tech companies on Wall Street. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) runs the largest retail marketplaces (Taobao, TMall) and leading B2B sites (Alibaba.com, 1688.com) in China and Lazada in Southeast Asia. It collects revenues mainly from commissions, marketing services, subscription fees, cloud computing and software, as well as other value-added services.

Alibaba has gone beyond e-commerce and developed into a sophisticated new type of conglomerate in the cyber-era with e-commerce as the base for the rest of the four businesses: logistics, finance, data-computing and cross-border infrastructure. Top analysts expect a whopping 24% compounded annual growth rate between now and 2018 for e-commerce in China.

The $205 SunTrust price target is less than the $220.98 consensus target. Shares closed Friday at $142.93.

Facebook

The huge social media leader has been incredibly volatile since posting absolutely horrible quarterly results. Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is the largest social network with over 2.0 billion monthly active users and over 1.4 billion daily active users. The company generates revenue from advertising and from payments, with over 95% of revenue from advertising. It generates close to 50% of revenues in the United States and Canada and is expanding rapidly in international markets.

Its solutions also include Instagram, a mobile application that enables people to take photos or videos, customize them with filter effects, and share them with friends and followers in a photo feed or send them directly to friends; Messenger, a messaging application for mobile and web on various platforms and devices, which enable people to reach others instantly, as well as enable businesses to engage with customers; and WhatsApp Messenger, a mobile messaging application.

Despite terrible earnings results last quarter and metrics, which caused the shares to sell off a stunning 20%, Facebook is used by some 60% of small businesses, which utilize the company’s advertising platform in some way for their businesses. The ability to grow that number is a huge positive for the beleaguered social media giant.

In addition, marketing data suggests that despite the negative headlines around data privacy, slowing engagement and shift to Stories, Facebook advertising return-on-investment remains strong, and the platform’s targeting capabilities and reach remain the best in class.

SunTrust has set its price target at $200. The consensus target is $207.89, and shares ended the week at $154.05.

Bookings

This internet travel leader was once called the Priceline Group, and now it is known as Bookings Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG). The online travel business offers price disclosed and opaque airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, vacation packages and cruises.

The company generates over 85% of gross profit from its International brands. It operates Priceline.com, Booking.com, Kayak.com, Agoda.com, Rentalcars.com and OpenTable.

SunTrust’s price objective of $2,270 compares with a $2,187.84 consensus estimate and the most recent close at $1,805.74.

Expedia

This is online travel leader is poised for a potentially big 2019. Expedia Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE) is the leading internet travel pure-play with exposure to online travel in the United States, Europe and Asia. The company’s portfolio of brands includes Expedia, Orbitz, HomeAway, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Trivago, Egencia, Hotwire, Wotif, Venere and Classic Vacations.

Top analysts see it as a story of improving execution, and they also think that the company is starting to finally match Priceline’s growth metrics. The company has raised the dividend and is buying back stock, and both are shareholder friendly actions. In addition, Expedia posted huge second-quarter results that blew past Wall Street expectations.

Expedia investors receive a 0.9% dividend. The SunTrust target price is $180. The consensus target is $150.07, and shares were last seen at $118.32.

Despite the recent volatility, especially associated with Facebook, social media and the popularity of the internet isn’t going anywhere, and while recent issues like privacy need to be addressed and resolved, you can bet that investors will continue to buy the group’s large-cap leaders.

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