Steve’s May Outlook: “The Next Coke”
May 22, 2020
When I think of two consumer-facing businesses the world would have great difficulty leaving behind, Walt Disney and Google-parent Alphabet both come to mind immediately.
Now you might be tempted to argue Alphabet is more a tech giant than a consumer-facing juggernaut. And that’s fair, between its incredible advances in AI, its burgeoning Google Cloud segment, Waymo self-driving vehicles, and its intriguing conglomeration of other high-tech, early stage businesses operating under the astutely named “Other Bets” segment.
But as Matt and I discussed toward the end of our Big Tech’s Big Earnings podcast two weeks ago, remember Alphabet is also a business that has nine separate products that each have at least one billion (yes, with a “b”) monthly active users, including its namesake search engine, Android, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps, Chrome, YouTube, the Google Play store, and now Google Photos. Just imagine the chaos around the globe if any single one of those products were to suddenly disappear.
Of course, outside of the Google Play Store and Google Cloud, Alphabet’s fortunes are heavily reliant on digital-advertising revenue — an industry that has taken a massive, albeit seemingly temporary hit starting in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic over the last couple months. But considering Alphabet still managed to grow revenue in the first quarter by 13% to $41.2 billion, which translated to quarterly net income of $6.8 billion and left the company with an incredible $117 billion of cash and equivalents on its balance sheet, I suspect this consumer-facing giant will be just fine in the end.
Disney, of course, is arguably the most successful entertainment conglomerate of all time. To be clear, its various parks & resorts and other in-person entertainment experiences are undoubtedly suffering from closures — adjusted earnings per share last quarter plunged over 60% and the company opted to forego its upcoming dividend payment to preserve cash. But consumers at home have continued to turn to Disney’s unrivaled portfolio of treasured films, TV shows, and new original content — from its namesake studios to Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar to the staggering number of assets it picked up with its $71 billion acquisition of Fox just over a year ago, and it’s no surprise that the company now boasts a six-month-old, 54.5-million-subscriber strong (as of May 5) streaming business in Disney+.
Add to that what executive chairman Bob Iger describes as an impending “cautious, sensible approach” to reopening Disney’s parks as the pandemic fades, and I tend to agree that the House of Mouse (and so much more) will continue to survive and thrive for decades to come.