Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) shelled out over $12 billion for Motorola Mobility back in 2012. At the time, the price seemed rather high, even though Google got some 17,000 patents and 7,500 pending patents. This was Motorola's largest acquisition by far. Less than two years later, Google has sold off its Motorola for just under $3 billion to Lenovo.
This has confirmed for many that the acquisition was a folly in the first place. Even still, Google is keeping all but 2,000 of the patents it acquired. All in all, the move wasn't that bad. The set-top box business acquired in the deal has already been sold for $2.35 billion.
Granted it didn't work out quite as well as many investors expected. I think this type of big bet is exactly why Google trades at 20x next year's earnings, and Apple at only 11x. The market is respecting Google's attempt to use its cash to grow, and its big bet mentality.
Fourth-quarter revenues came in at $16.86 billion, an increase of 17% Y/Y. Operating income was up over 15%. The total paid clicks was up 31% year on year, and 13% sequentially. Google has kept its dominant position in search for some time. eMarketer notes that global spending on digital advertising for 2013 was $118 billion. Google owned over 40% of the digital marketing spend that year. This share has been fairly constant for the last three years. This market is expected to jump to $135 billion in 2014. This should be the bulk driver of revenues for Google. From what we know about YouTube, its growth has been strong and there appears to be plenty of potential to target advertisers.
However, granted the digital marketing industry isn't going to grow at a high growth rate. That's why Google will continue to step up to the plate. And while it might strike out a lot, it's also looking to hit a home run. I admire Google for taking its cuts, where Apple appears to be content with taking a walk.
Google is still a "moon shooter"
Not everything has a commercial objective, which accounts for the fact that the company has started and then dropped many new projects over the past few years. Google continues to operate with the premise that it can and will take big bets. The perceived failure of Motorola Mobility won't do much to deter the company, nor Larry Page. Its core businesses should remain advertising and search. Gmail and Android only serve to extend that reach.
Google is also making the move into the fast growing robotics and artificial intelligence markets, with the recent acquisition of eight companies in robotics, and one in artificial intelligence. It is also making a large move into automated manufacturing with Foxconn (OTC:FXCOF), which is the biggest manufacturing contractor for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).
Google will be working to develop new robotic manufacturing systems, with the partnership providing a good testing ground for robotics technology. One the other hand, the acquisition of Nest has helped it gain a tighter grip on "Internet of Things," setting a stage for the company to build a platform for home automation, much like it's helped automate the internet. Google is also looking to get into your car, further extending the reach of Android. It announced the formation of OAA (Open Automotive Alliance), with companies likes of Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai already signed up.
Google continues to be an exciting growth story. The valuation isn't reasonable for some investors. However, it continues to be at the forefront when it comes to connecting technology, and pushing its limits. I think that'll continue to support its 20x to 30x earnings multiple, unlike Apple. I think one of the things that keeps Apple's multiples compressed is their relative secrecy when it comes to trying to grow its business. Google is a bit more open with its ventures and growth opportunities, and the market rewards it for such. Part of Google's premium valuation is also thanks to its "F you" attitude.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.