Wall Street can't get enough Google ( GOOG). Shares of the search giant pushed another 1.4% higher Friday after the company announced
third-quarter earnings that breezed by Wall Street's profit and revenue estimates. Friday's uptick follows a nearly 30% run in the stock since August lows and is even more impressive considering the broader selloff happening in the session. The Dow Jones was off more than 200 points, while the Nasdaq had fallen 1.6%. For Google, analysts once again boosted price targets and issued bullish notes. The most notable call came from Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto, a longtime Google backer, who raised his price target to $800 from $620. Comments by management that the company will keep an eye on hiring, the continued upside in the money made per search, and the rollout of new ad formats were among the reasons that Noto expects even more appreciation in the stock. This potential led Goldman Sachs to raise its earnings per share estimates by 7% and 10% for 2008 and 2009 respectively. Noto wrote that "continued revenue and profit outpeformance will drive Street estimates and valuations higher," in a research note to clients. Goldman Sachs makes a market in Google shares.
While short on specifics on how Google planned to storm new markets beyond its core search business, Thursday's conference call for investors yielded several bullish signs. While Google's aggressive hiring continued this quarter -- the company added about 2,100 new employees -- CEO Eric Schmidt said many of the new additions stemmed from the overhang of offers the company had already made previously in the year. The second quarter also tends to involve heavy college hiring, Schmidt said. But most importantly, Schmidt again signaled that the company would not let aggressive hiring derail financial results as it did in the second quarter, when Google missed profit expectations while delivering strong revenue. "The important thing here is that we did in fact correct, and I think going forward, you should be comfortable that we are paying a lot of attention to the headcount," Schmidt said. Google's updates on recently launched products was also bullish, if short on details. The video ads it launched on its YouTube video-sharing service were outperforming expectations, Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and president of technology said. "The user responses and feedback have been positive and we have had better click-thru rates than we anticipated." Brin also said the ads would provide a template for how Google would approach new formats. "You have to experiment with different kinds of things until you can actually find formats that really work for users and for advertisers."
Google also talked up the potential surrounding its recent launch of gadget ads, which embed rich display advertisements into capsules that can be placed across the Internet. While advertising tends to get the most attention at Google, the company also stressed the prospects of its online applications business. Google Apps won a major voice of support during the quarter when CapGemini, a major global consulting firm, said it would start recommending the product to some of its clients. "On the apps side, we are now seeing a massive transition to web-based cloud computing at a consumer and enterprise level," Schmidt said. "We talked about this for a while and we now see not only the progress but also the future products, both from Google and from the other folks in the industry to make this really happen." Investors might have benefited from more detail. But with another strong quarter in the bag, it's easy to take Google's word for it.