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Solid Big Tech earnings expected despite politics

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Oct 29, 2020 - 09:05 AM

SAN FRANCISCO — A powerhouse line-up of earnings releases on Thursday is expected to show that giants of Big Tech are on firm financial footing despite turbulent politics and the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Google-parent Alphabet are all slated to disclose how their businesses faired in the third quarter of this year.

“The reality is that the strong are getting stronger with FAANG names such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple beneficiaries of the current environment,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors.

Robust financial results expected from the tech behemoths will highlight their “outsized” strength, and put a “bright spotlight” on them in regard to antitrust concerns, Ives added.

Ad rebound? 

Alphabet and Facebook dominate the digital ad market, which appeared to be recovering from a hit it took early in the pandemic, according to analysts.

And while much smaller in terms of making money, Twitter is likely to have seen advertising benefit in the quarter as people tune in for US election commentary and live sports that were held despite pandemic concerns.

Facebook likely saw its ranks of users and its revenue grow in the quarter, even despite an ad boycott calling for more meaningful curbs on hateful content, Canaccord Genuity said in a note to investors.

Alphabet was also expected to see ad revenue growth return, with help from streaming video platform YouTube.

Despite criticisms of online platforms, advertisers seem to prefer proven online venues such as Facebook and Google when it comes to spending marketing money, according to Canaccord.

Cloud cash 

Investors will be interested in Google’s cloud business, as well as a recent expansion of its pioneering driverless ride service..

Waymo, the autonomous car unit at Alphabet, opened its robo-taxi project to the general public in the US city of Phoenix in September.

While not likely to be a money-maker yet, Waymo promises to be a rare Alphabet “moonshot” that actually becomes a viable stand-alone business.

Meanwhile, Google and Amazon are rivals in a fast-growing cloud computing market, which has seen demand boom as people work, learn, shop and socialize online due to the pandemic.

Both companies are expected to showcase how their cloud businesses are thriving.

Amazon’s e-commerce revenue engine likely continued to rev as people avoiding real-world stores go online for groceries, clothes, business supplies and more.

Analysts will be keen to know how Amazon’s recent Prime Day sales went, even though the event took place after the end of the third quarter, as well as whether the company’s delivery operations were getting back up to speed despite the heavy load.

iPhones eyed 

Apple is expected to meet earnings expectations with help of a thriving business selling digital content and services to fans of its mobile devices.

“Apple should post at least modest upside to the Street’s $64 billion top-line estimate on the heels of stronger Services revenue and relatively healthy iPhone demand,” Ives said.

For investors, Apple’s third quarter earnings figures will take a “back seat” to any glimpses company executives give into demand for recently launched iPhone 12 models, according to Ives.

The analyst noted that a study of Apple’s supply chain indicates preparation for blockbuster iPhone 12 demand.

“We continue to see the path higher for tech stocks given the underlying fundamental drivers that should be front and center during 3Q earnings,” Ives said.

“In a nutshell, we are still in the middle innings of a paradigm change for tech stocks with WFH (working from home), cloud, e-commerce, and cyber security trends leading the way.”

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