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Google shares soar as YouTube growth allays fears over Facebook challenge

Shares hit a record high of US$696. — Reuters file picShares hit a record high of US$696. — Reuters file picNEW YORK, July 17 — Google Inc’s shares surged as much as 15.7 per cent today, adding nearly US$63 billion (RM239.5 billion) to its market value, as strong growth in mobile ad revenue allayed concerns its YouTube business could be hurt by Facebook Inc’s push into video.

The surge in the stock, which sent the Nasdaq composite index to a record intraday high, came a day after Google reported better than expected revenue and profit for the first time in six quarters.

Google’s share price rise added more to its market value than the combined market capitalisation of Twitter Inc and LinkedIn Corp.

Shares of Google, the world’s most valuable company after Apple Inc, hit a record high of US$696, valuing the Web search giant at about US$466 billion.

At least 27 brokerages raised their price targets on Google’s stock by as much as US$150 to as high as US$800, with analysts also welcoming new chief financial officer Ruth Porat’s emphasis on disciplined spending.

At the highest price target, Google will be valued at US$545 billion. Apple was valued at about US$740 billion as of yesterday’s close.

“She (Porat) is known to be tough as nails when it comes to expense management and I think the first quarter off the back, she is delivering,” FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi told Reuters. “A lot of investors are comforted by the fact that her first quarter as CFO, reporting, she is delivering.”

Online video ads could be a US$17 billion opportunity in the United States alone by 2017 and YouTube looks best positioned to benefit, Jefferies & Co analysts wrote in a note.

Google said watch time for YouTube rose 60 per cent in the second quarter and the video service roped in more viewers aged 18-49 than any US cable network on mobile alone.

Google and Facebook are trying to woo big companies to market their products via online videos.

YouTube has an edge over Facebook as it has a more mature monetisation platform that seems to attract the best content, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said.

Google said the gap was closing between mobile and desktop “cost per click” (CPC), or the average price of online ads.

Mobile CPCs are likely to exceed desktop CPCs in the long term, Munster said.

Google’s CPCs fell 11 per cent in the quarter but that is not the complete story, Jefferies analysts said.

YouTube TrueView ads, where advertisers pay only when users don’t skip an ad, cost less than traditional search ads.

Google’s fast rampup of YouTube monetisation is also hurting pricing, they said.

The company’s advertising revenue rose 11 per cent to US$16.02 billion. The number of paid clicks increased 18 per cent.

“This growth has steadily held in the mid-to-high teens since at least Q1:13,” RBC analyst Mark Mahaney said. “Such consistency is a rarity, especially for a behemoth business ...”

Of 48 analysts covering the stock, 38 have “buy” or higher rating, while 10 have “hold”. The median price target is US$672, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Google’s shares were up 15.5 per cent at US$695.13 in late morning trading on the Nasdaq. Facebook’s shares also rose 5 per cent to US$95.30. — Reuters

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