Jul 16, 2011

Analysts hail Google results, raise price targets

Shares of Google Inc surged 13 percent before the bell on Friday, a day after the Internet giant posted blockbuster second-quarter results that blew past Wall Street expectations, prompting at least three brokerages to raise their price targets on the stock.

"We are witnessing signs of increased competitive advantage for Google, particularly in Display and Local, with Search showing no signs of slowing," Evercore analyst Ken Sena wrote in a note.

Evercore's Sena raised his price target on the stock to $735 from $670, while Collins Stewart analyst Mayuresh Masurekar raised his price target to $725 from $680. Jefferies raised it price target on the stock to $830 from $800.

The results were strong despite a seasonally slow quarter, macro softness and substantially higher costs, analyst Masurekar said.

On a conference call, Chief Executive Larry Page said Google's new social networking service, Google+, had signed up more than 10 million people.

Evercore's Sena said he was encouraged by Google+ both in terms of traction and the company's plans to integrate its data signals and sharing capability into other Google products and services.

The better-than-expected results and successful Google+ launch should stem some of the short-term stock angst about their investment and development strategy, Wells Fargo analyst Jason Maynard said.

Investors had feared Google's ever-increasing spending would eat into margins. Operating expenses leapt 49 percent to $2.97 billion in the second quarter, to about a third of revenue.

Google is fighting technology heavyweights that include Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp , as well as upstarts such as Groupon, as it seeks to protect its lucrative search business at a time when mobile gadgets and social media are redefining the way consumers use the Web.

All four brokerages maintained their top ratings on Google stock.

Shares of the company rose $68.06 to $597.00 in trading before the bell. The stock closed at $528.94 on Thursday on Nasdaq.

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