Wall Street analysts were rattled by Alphabet's increased spending in the fourth quarter but largely defended parent of Google, saying they didn't believe investors fully understood the stock and more transparency from the company about all its big long-term bets would help the stock.
Analysts also were trying to make sense of Alphabet's increased competition in digital advertising, rising costs and renewed margin concerns. Despite all that, some analysts even raised their price targets after the earnings report Monday, saying the company was still a good long term buy.
The internet giant's stock opened little changed at $1137.58.
"There were likely several bright spots within revenue growth (such as YouTube and possibly cloud), but lack of disclosure conceals business trends, while the ongoing investment in cloud, hardware and YouTube content is pressuring margins," Bank of America analyst Justin Post said in his earnings recap note to clients. "Overall, a somewhat frustrating (quarter) for a business seemingly on a good trajectory."
Continuing the theme of transparency, Morgan Stanley's Brian Nowak said, "4Q highlights the strength of GOOGL's core and portfolio of assets, difficulties in modeling (quarterly) ins and outs, and need for better transparency."
Barclays analyst Ross Sandler opened his note to clients saying, "But margins are still imploding in 4Q ... revenue growth remains stellar, but the pace of margin erosion continues to disappoint, based on mix shift & one-time items."
"We maintain our overweight rating, but prefer other FANG names Facebook, Amazon,& Netflix to Google," said J.P. Morgan's Doug Anmuth.
Expenses were also a concern for RBC's Mark Mahaney, who wrote: "Growth remained very consistent though expenses came in higher from Other COGS, including costs related to YouTube, & R&D."
Analysts at UBS and Deutsche Bank actually raised their price targets with Deutsche Bank noting, "We feel good about the near and long term ability for Google to sustain top line growth given 1) its 8 properties that each have over 1B monthly users, 2) the leverage that AI/ML brings not only to the platform, but also to newer initiatives such as Cloud and Waymo, as well as 3) the hardware business that is gaining momentum."
Here's what the big analysts are saying: