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These Giants Are Also Underappreciated Cloud Stocks

Sunday, 19 May 2013 | 12:05 AM ET
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One of the biggest secular trends in technology is toward cloud computing, which allows consumers and businesses to access data and applications anywhere, anytime.

"You have to focus on cloud as a tech investor at this point," Ken Allen, technology portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price, told CNBC this week. "It cuts across the industry, across subsectors."

Given cloud computing's potential, Wall Street analysts remain bullish on two of the companies at the forefront of this movement: Google and Amazon.

Amazon.com 'Undervalued': Portfolio Manager
The benefits of scale will show that Amazon.com shares are relatively cheap now, Ken Allen of T. Rowe Price says.

An Underappreciated Cloud Play

Amazon.com, an e-commerce leader, is also an overlooked cloud stock, Allen said.

"The stock actually is undervalued," he told CNBC. "That's probably a controversial statement to make, but Amazon is under-earning its business model by a lot."

The reason that seems bold is that on a traditional price-to-earnings basis, Amazon trades at 200 times 2013 earnings, while Google trades on just under 20 times.

But, Allen said, Amazon has been making "smart investments" in both its e-commerce and cloud business, "such that the durability of high growth is really strong and among the best of any company I look at."

Analysts are generally bullish on the stock with a median price target of $320, according to Thomson Reuters. That implies about 20 percent upside. This week, Lazard Capital Markets joined the bulls, initiating coverage on Amazon with a buy rating and a $310 price target on expectations that margins will pick up.

(Read More: Keep Betting on Amazon's Bezos: Pros)

"Amazon's cash flow margins were in the high single digits three or four years ago," Allen said. "It's been in an investment cycle, but it has proven the ability to earn those kinds of margins. Getting back to those levels would reveal the stock to be quite undervalued."

His other underappreciated cloud stock is Microsoft. The company "to an extent is an example of a play that cloud is a better setup than investors think," he said. And the giant is making progress in its cloud offering, which "points to a brighter future" for the stock, he added.

Google's March to $1,000: Analyst
Colin Sebastian, RW Baird analyst, explains why he raised the price target on the stock from $830 to over a thousand dollars.

A Consumer and Enterprise Cloud Story

Google, meanwhile, spans both the consumer and enterprise clouds.

"The company's leveraged to the most important growth trends in Internet technology, including mobile and cloud services," said R.W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian. He has a $1,025 price target on the stock.

"There is a tremendous amount of disruption and change happening in technology, driven mainly by the Internet," Sebastian said. "Google is certainly at the center of that change."

At its Google I/O developer conference this week, the company unveiled a number of initiatives, including a streaming music service, an updated Chrome browser that allows for faster video-streaming on mobile devices, a revamped social media platform and a next-generation maps application.

(Read More: Google Launches Music Service, Refreshes Maps)

Sebastian doesn't expect the subscription music service to do much for revenues in the near term, but it may put pressure on other companies, such as Pandora and Apple.

MKM Partners initiated coverage on Pandora this week with a sell rating, saying that content costs will restrict earnings and that it will be difficult for Pandora to close the monetization gap with offline competitors. The firm wrote that "after several fairly benign years, competitive intensity is picking up again." MKM pointed to competitive pressures from Google as well as Amazon, Apple and Facebook.

But Google's innovations don't always pan out.

"Facebook's clear dominance in social is one of those areas," Sebastian said. "I'd say commerce and payments are another one where Google has lagged a bit."

Online video should also prove to be big business for Google over the next seven years. Morgan Stanley analysts forecast that YouTube could have $20 billion in revenue by 2020, up from about $4 billion now.

"We raise our long-term revenue and earnings forecasts by about 7 percent to account for YouTube generating revenue equivalent to 6 percent of TV ad budgets by 2020," the analysts wrote in a research note.

(Read More: YouTube May Be Worth $20 Billion by 2020: Morgan Stanley)

This is not a new idea for Wall Street analysts. In March, RBC Internet analyst Mark Mahaney told CNBC, "We've had a thesis building here that says TV ad budgets are going to migrate online. If that's true, YouTube and Google are the biggest beneficiary of it."

By CNBC's Justin Menza. Follow him on Twitter @JustinMenza.

Additional News: YouTube Starts Paid Subscription Service

Additional Views: Google Music Skips a Beat

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Disclosures:

R.W. Baird makes a market in Google securities and intends to seek investment banking business from the company in the next three months. Morgan Stanley is currently acting as a financial advisor to Google with respect to its proposed stock dividend.

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