Is Alphabet (GOOG) a Defensive Stock? Evaluating with the Graham Method

Alphabet is currently trading at $136.99 per share and has a Graham number of $43.35, which implies that it is 216.0% above its fair value. We calculate the Graham number as follows:

√(22.5 * 5 year average earnings per share * book value per share) = √(22.5 * 3.0 * 21.153) = 43.35

The Graham number is one of seven factors that Graham enumerates in Chapter 14 of The Intelligent Investor for determining whether a stock offers a margin of safety. Rather than use the Graham number by itself, its best to consider it alongside the following fundamental metrics:

Sales Revenue Should Be No Less Than $500 million

For Alphabet, average sales revenue over the last 6 years has been $227.3 Billion, so in the context of the Graham analysis the stock has impressive sales revenue. Originally the threshold was $100 million, but since the book was published in the 1970s it's necessary to adjust the figure for inflation.

Current Assets Should Be at Least Twice Current Liabilities

We calculate Alphabet's current ratio by dividing its total current assets of $164.8 Billion by its total current liabilities of $69.3 Billion. Current assets refer to company assets that can be transferred into cash within one year, such as accounts receivable, inventory, and liquid financial instruments. Current liabilities, on the other hand, refer to those that will come due within one year. In Alphabet’s case, current assets outweigh current liabilities by a factor of 2.4.

The Company’s Long-term Debt Should Not Exceed its Net Current Assets

This means that its ratio of debt to net current assets should be 1 or less. Since Alphabet’s debt ratio is 0.3, the company has too much debt. We calculate Alphabet’s debt to net current assets ratio by dividing its total long term of debt of $14.7 Billion by its current assets minus total liabilities of $109.12 Billion.

The Stock Should Have a Positive Level of Retained Earnings Over Several Years

Alphabet had positive retained earnings from 2014 to 2022 with an average of $135.57 Billion. Retained earnings are the sum of the current and previous reporting periods' net asset amounts, minus all dividend payments. It's a similar metric to free cash flow, with the difference that retained earnings are accounted for on an accrual basis.

There Should Be a Record of Uninterrupted Dividend Payments Over the Last 20 Years

We have no record of Alphabet offering a regular dividend within the last twenty years.

A Minimum Increase of at Least One-third in Earnings per Share (EPS) Over the Past 10 Years

With only 9 years of available data, the Alphabet cannot meet Graham's requirement of 30% growth over a 10 year period. Growth was disappointing during this period too. The average EPS during 2013 and 2014 was $19.68 based on the reported values of $18.79 and $20.57. Looking to the years 2021 and 2022, we see reported values of $5.61 and $4.56, which averages out to $5.08. This tells us that during this period Alphabet's earnings per share shrank by -74.19%.

It may be trading far above its fair value, but Alphabet actually does not have the profile of a defensive stock according to Benjamin Graham's criteria because it has:

  • impressive sales revenue
  • an excellent current ratio
  • too much debt
  • positive retained earnings from 2014 to 2022
  • no dividend record
  • decreasing earnings per share
The above analysis is intended for educational purposes only and was performed on the basis of publicly available data. It is not to be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Any buy, sell, or other recommendations mentioned in the article are direct quotations of consensus recommendations from the analysts covering the stock, and do not represent the opinions of Market Inference or its writers. Past performance, accounting data, and inferences about market position and corporate valuation are not reliable indicators of future price movements. Market Inference does not provide financial advice. Investors should conduct their own review and analysis of any company of interest before making an investment decision.