A: It all depends on how successful it is at branching out from its outrageously profitable business of selling online advertising tied to its flagship search engine.
- Andrew Leckey
Jan. 13: Mattel's offerings are playing well in overseas markets
Jan. 6: Sun Microsystems remains a work in progress
IN THIS PACKAGE
- In some allocation formulas, your salary is your bond
- Starting over: Time to sign up for medicare drug plan
- Better ways to implement 401(k) teaching in workplace needed
- New options, spin on reverse mortgages
- The savings game
- The Leckey file
- Getting started
- Spending smart
- Can they do that?
- Taking stock
- Address realities before setting long-term goals
- The week ahead
- Google Inc.
See more topics »
It also has a lot of wealthy employees who benefited greatly from its initial public offering and may not hang around much longer.
This 8-year-old firm is No. 1 among search engines, recently holding about half the U.S. search market. Advertising revenue, always closely monitored for indication of slippage, accounted for 60 percent of Google's revenue in its most recent quarter.
It is especially adept at making rival Yahoo Inc., which runs the Internet's second-largest advertising network, look really bad. Net income in Google's third quarter nearly doubled, due in part to rising international sales. Yahoo's declined 37 percent.
Google (GOOG) stock is up 20 percent this year after last year's 115 percent increase.
In a bold move, it is paying $1.65 billion in stock to buy popular video-sharing site YouTube Inc., which Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt considers "the next step in the evolution of the Internet." YouTube has a worldwide audience of 72 million and shows 100 million video clips each day.
Yet critics warn that the large amount of copyrighted material on YouTube eventually could open Google to an avalanche of infringement lawsuits.
Ever aggressive, Google last year spent $130.5 million to buy 15 small companies. It is adding 500 employees at its European headquarters in Ireland. It has a crack technical staff, Internet advertising is booming, and all its businesses have logical connections.
Nonetheless, its blogging and Google Finance operations haven't been as successful as other ventures, and some doubt whether its Google Earth digital mapping software will contribute to its bottom line.
Buoyed by a solid balance sheet and $10 billion in cash, however, there is optimism that Google will be able to successfully branch out.
Wall Street consensus on Google is a "buy," according to Thomson Financial. That consists of a dozen "strong buys," 21 "buys," three "holds, two "underperforms," and one "sell."
Google's earnings are expected to increase 81 percent this year, compared with the 7 percent rise predicted for the Internet information-provider industry. Next year's forecast of a 33 percent gain compares with 25 percent projected industrywide. The expected five-year annualized return is 32 percent versus the 13 percent forecast for its peers.
Q: Please give your opinion of the Homestead Value Fund. -- K.C., via the Internet
A: Solid, experienced managers and a low expense ratio is a strong combination.
This fund holds companies ranging in size from small to giant. But its hefty portion of mid-cap stocks in recent years wouldn't make it a good idea if you already held a lot of mid-caps.
The $607 million Homestead Value Fund (HOVLX) is up 18 percent over the past 12 months to rank at the midpoint of large value funds. Its three-year annualized return of 17 percent puts it in the top 9 percent of its peers.
"It would be hard to go wrong with this fund, since the fact it doesn't trade a lot makes it tax efficient," said Lawrence Jones, analyst with Morningstar Inc. in Chicago. "We rank its managers and their process as pretty solid."