Google On the Road to $500

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Say goodbye to Google ( GOOG) $600.

A lack of growth, weak consumer spending, softer-than-expected advertising "click-through" rates and now the rise of regulatory scrutiny have helped put Google shares in a funk.

Google: Not all Good

On Wednesday, adding to the woes in Google's search ad business, European regulators started to look at charges that the search giant may be treating competitors unfairly.

And though the probe is merely an informal review by the E.U., some analysts say it's just the beginning of an era for Google that is very much akin to the persistent regulatory slaparound Microsoft ( MSFT) has earned over the past two decades.

"Due to Google's dominating position in search, the regulatory scrutiny will likely surface more often," Collins Stewart analyst Sandeep Aggarwal wrote in a research note Wednesday.
Google

Google said the "scrutiny goes with the territory" and was cooperating with the E.U. Google added on its blog that it was "confident that our business operates in the interests of users and partners, as well as in line with European competition law."

The brush with the law highlights Google's continuing shift from its days as a rapidly growing and beloved Internet mastery tool to a potential search monopolist that wields too much power.

Investors aren't particularly enamored with these types of transitions.

Tech giants like Microsoft and Intel ( INTC) -- reforming monopolists in their own rights -- have offered investors very little in returns after achieving market dominance. The stock performance for Microsoft and Intel has been flat for most of the past decade.

It may be too early to pronounce Google's great growth phase as over, but there are few signs that the company is on the verge of another growth spurt.

Search ad revenue is still more than 97% of Google's total sales, and that top line is increasingly connected to the pace of the economy and less so to the expansion into new markets. Google's Android effort has been impressive, with phones at every U.S. carrier, but its impact on revenues has so far been negligible.

Meanwhile, higher costs loom on the horizon as Google pushes a broadband delivery experiment to consumers and businesses.

Google has struggled to demonstrate effectiveness outside its core search ad market.

Google shares are down 13% this year amid a market broadly weaker than what tech investors enjoyed last year. Google was trading down slightly at $534.49 Wednesday.

"Google is increasingly becoming a show me story," Aggarwal writes.

The company needs improvement in areas like graphic ads (or so-called display advertising), mobile ads and YouTube ads, as well as in sales of apps including software to businesses. Those areas are among the keys to any upside in the stock, according to Aggarwal.

Until then, brace for Google $500.

-- Written by Scott Moritz in New York

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