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The internet technology giant dominates the fastest growing advertising segment
Thursday 23 Dec 2021 Author: Steven Frazer

Google-owner Alphabet (GOOG) is a giant in internet advertising. It is growing fast with large technological moats and very attractive operating profit margins of 30%.

In five years, it has doubled revenues and is forecast to have generated nearly 40% sales growth alone in 2021.

Digital advertising will account for 61.5% of global advertising spend for the first time in 2022, according to the latest advertising expenditure forecast compiled by Zenith, and more than 65% by 2024.

Brands are desperate to reach widening audiences on social media platforms, online video, connected TV and e-commerce channels, an established trend that the pandemic super-charged.

Beyond the internet search services for which Alphabet is best known; and YouTube, one of the world’s most visited platforms; the group has continued to acquire and develop new areas, such as a fast-growing cloud computing business, self-driving vehicle venture Waymo and health researcher Verily.

You don’t grow to the size of a small nation’s GDP without locking horns with regulators, and Alphabet does face antitrust challenges ahead.

The company has been accused of hurting competitors by giving priority in its search results to its own products, while its complex ecosystem also makes it difficult for alternative operatorsto succeed.

Furthermore, the tech giant owns the world’s dominant smartphone operating system, Android, which runs close on nine out of every 10 smartphones worldwide.

If push came to shove and the worst happened Alphabet could possibly restructure itself under regulatory pressure, but it would likely fight tooth and nail and a legal battle could drag on for years.

Most analysts don’t see that happening, instead believing some form of deal would be struck that would suit all parties to some degree, albeit with possible financial penalties.

Alphabet’s shares are not expensive given its qualities, trading on 25.4 times forecast earnings for 2022. It has some of the best tech brains on the planet in its talented workforce and the financial resources to back emerging developments and opportunities, with a $128 billion net cash position.

The shares have rewarded investors for years, with total returns of nearly 18.5% a year over 10 years, surpassing both the performance of the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indices during a decade-long bull run.

The only real drawback is that a single share costs several thousand dollars which might deter some investors with limited funds.

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