If any technological advancement has become 100% ubiquitous for most Americans it is the internet. We use it daily for a multitude of tasks, including everything from payments to ordering food, to travel, to checking the weather, to a million other things. Because of the huge adoption of the internet, digital advertising has emerged as the single most innovative breakthrough in the advertising arena since the dawn of TV.
A new Jefferies research report remains very positive overall on the internet and the prospects going forward but also remains selective on the top companies in the sector they like going into the third-quarter earnings prints. The analysts, led by Brent Thill, are very bullish on these four top picks before earnings, and all are rated Buy at Jefferies.
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.
Back in the fall, 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).
Advertising remains a huge growth area, and the analysts noted this:
Industry ad spending remains healthy as we noted at the Advertising Week conference in September. The company keeps pushing the envelope with advertising surface on YouTube, Google Maps (including travel planning), and local initiatives. We remain positive on Alphabet thanks to attractive valuation, healthy digital advertising market, and call options such as YouTube, Cloud, hardware (expanded product line heading into the holidays), and Waymo (Long-term value ~$250 billion).
The Jefferies price target for the shares is $1,500, and the Wall Street consensus target is $1,343.80 The shares closed Tuesday at $1,242.24.
This online travel leader could be poised for a potential big third-quarter report. 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 finally is starting to match Priceline’s growth metrics. The company has raised the dividend and is buying back stock, and both are shareholder-friendly actions.
Jefferies noted this when discussing the outlook for the third-quarter results:
We expect investors to focus on Vrbo and trivago, looking for improving trends, along with potential commentary on expectations beyond fourth quarter 2019 against softening global macro trends. We believe that continued strength in Core OTA, return to growth for trivago and favorable exposure should help top-line growth in the second half while operational streamlining and remaining marketing spend efficiencies should still help margins.
Investors receive a 1% dividend. The $170 Jefferies target price is well above the $149.10 consensus price target. Expedia closed Tuesday at $137.25.