American Technology Research analyst Mark Mahaney assigned a price target of $210 Monday. In doing so he became only the latest Wall Street analyst to plot a map north of $200 for the highflying search-engine stock.
Mahaney also upgraded Google to buy from hold, arguing that two major negatives that have hung over the stock -- competition from
and the expiration of lockups on insider selling -- aren't as immediately potent as previously feared.
While concerns remain about Google's valuation, on the basis of a multiple of its free cash flow, Mahaney points to several positives for the stock. He cites strong near-term seasonality, relatively high short-selling in the stock, and signs that Google executives will offer greater financial and strategic disclosure to Wall Street.
Google's stock, which went public at $85 in August and topped out at $201.60 Nov. 3, rose 56 cents to trade at $179.95 Monday.
Mahaney is one of several analysts who have overcome initial skepticism to become increasingly bullish on Google as its price has climbed. He initiated coverage on Google Aug. 20 with a hold rating and a price target of $110, but downgraded the stock to sell Oct. 11, some weeks after the stock had exceeded that price target. Mahaney then upgraded the stock to hold Oct. 22 while raising his price target to $180. Mahaney's firm hasn't done underwriting for Google.
With the new price target, Mahaney joins other Google optimists such as Goldman Sachs' Anthony Noto, who
last week initiated coverage with an outperform rating and a $215 target. Earlier in the month, Credit Suisse First Boston's Heath Terry raised his price target on the stock to $225 from $177. Both CSFB and Goldman were underwriters of Google's IPO.
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