These 4 Tech Stocks Are Better Plays Than Facebook

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Facebook (FB) is the reigning king of social media, managing 76.2% gains over the year. But how does it hold up against these buy-rated tech stocks: Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), IBM (IBM) and Micron Technology (MU)?

In the year to date, long-term plays Apple and IBM have shed 2.6% and 3%, Google is up 45.5% and high-momentum mover Micron Technology exploded 194.8%. PowerShares QQQ (QQQ), which tracks the 100 largest nonfinancial companies on the Nasdaq, has increased 27.78% while the S&P 500 is up 25.57%.

By late Wednesday morning, Facebook surged 1.6% to $47.08, Apple was down 0.19% to $518.55, Google edged 0.49% higher to $1,030.23, IBM increased 0.26% to $185.74 and Micron Technology plunged 1.4% to $18.79. The S&P 500 has gained 0.23%.

TheStreet Ratings team rates Facebook Inc as a Hold with a ratings score of C-. The team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate Facebook Inc (FB) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed -- some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and impressive record of earnings per share growth. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that the company's return on equity has been disappointing."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • FB's very impressive revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 9.2%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues leaped by 59.7%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • FB's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.04 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. Along with this, the company maintains a quick ratio of 10.37, which clearly demonstrates the ability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 950% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 119.09% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Setting our sights on the months ahead, however, we feel that the stock's sharp appreciation over the last year has driven it to a price level which is now relatively expensive compared to the rest of its industry. The implication is that its reduced upside potential is not good enough to warrant further investment at this time.
  • When compared to other companies in the Internet Software & Services industry and the overall market, Facebook Inc's return on equity is below that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.

Apple

TheStreet Ratings team rates Apple Inc as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. The team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate Apple Inc (AAPL) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, good cash flow from operations, expanding profit margins and attractive valuation levels. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • AAPL's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 2.8%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 4.2%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • AAPL's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.14 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.40, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Net operating cash flow has slightly increased to $9,908 million or 8.45% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, Apple Inc has also modestly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of 6.93%.
  • 41.78% is the gross profit margin for Apple Inc which we consider to be strong. Regardless of AAPL's high profit margin, it has managed to decrease from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, AAPL's net profit margin of 20.04% compares favorably to the industry average.
  • Apple Inc's earnings per share from the most recent quarter came in slightly below the year earlier quarter. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past year. However, we anticipate this trend reversing over the coming year. During the past fiscal year, Apple Inc reported lower earnings of $39.63 a share vs. $44.16 a share in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($43.46 vs. $39.63).

Google

TheStreet Ratings team rates Google Inc as a Buy with a ratings score of A. The team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate Google Inc (GOOG) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share and compelling growth in net income. Although no company is perfect, currently we do not see any significant weaknesses which are likely to detract from the generally positive outlook."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • GOOG's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 9.2%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 11.9%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • GOOG's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.06 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. Along with this, the company maintains a quick ratio of 4.50, which clearly demonstrates the ability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 34.41% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 58.64% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, GOOG should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • Google Inc has improved earnings per share by 34.4% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, Google Inc increased its bottom line by earning $32.47 a share vs. $29.74 a share in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($44.07 vs. $32.47).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Internet Software & Services industry average. The net income increased by 36.5% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $2,176 million to $2,970 million.

IBM

TheStreet Ratings team rates INTL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. The team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate INTL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP (IBM) a BUY. This is driven by a number of strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its growth in earnings per share, notable return on equity, expanding profit margins and increase in net income. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • INTL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP has improved earnings per share by 10.5% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, INTL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP increased its bottom line by earning $14.41 a share vs. $13.12 a share in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($16.90 vs. $14.41).
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. Compared to other companies in the IT Services industry and the overall market, INTL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for INTL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP is rather high; currently it is at 53.54%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Regardless of the strong results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 17.03% trails the industry average.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the IT Services industry average, but is less than that of the S&P 500. The net income increased by 5.7% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $3,823 million to $4,041 million.
  • Despite the weak revenue results, IBM has outperformed against the industry average of 22.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 4.1%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.

Micron Technology

TheStreet Ratings team rates Micron Technology as a Buy with a ratings score of B. The team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate Micron Technology INC (MU) a BUY. This is driven by several positive factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and attractive valuation levels. Although no company is perfect, currently we do not see any significant weaknesses which are likely to detract from the generally positive outlook."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 9.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 44.8%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 729.16% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 245.45% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, MU should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • Micron Technology INC reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, Micron Technology INC turned its bottom line around by earning $1 a share vs. -$1.04 a share in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.12 a share vs. $1 a share).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Semiconductors & Semiconductor Equipment industry. The net income increased by 802.9% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from -$243 million to $1,708 million.

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