How Can We Analyze Alphabet (GOOG) Like Ben Graham?

Alphabet does not have the profile of a defensive investment based on the requirements of Ben Graham. The Software firm may nonetheless be of interest to more risk-oriented investors who have a solid thesis on the company's future growth. At Market Inference, we remain agnostic as to such further developments, and prefer to use a company's past track record as the bellwether for future potential gains.

Alphabet Is Probably Overvalued

Graham devised the below equation to give investors a quick way of determining whether a stock is trading at a fair multiple of its earnings and its assets:

√(22.5 * 6 year average earnings per share (3.0) * 6 year average book value per share (21.153) = $43.35

After an impressive 33.0% performance over the 12 months, Alphabet is now trading well over its fair value because its Graham number is 213.9% above today's share price of $136.07. Even though the stock does not trade at an attractive multiple, it might still meet some of the other criteria for quality stocks that Graham listed in Chapter 14 of The Intelligent Investor.

Positive Retained Earnings From 2014 To 2022, No Dividend Record, and Decreasing Earnings Per Share

Ben Graham wrote that an investment in a company with a record of positive retained earnings could contribute significantly to the margin of safety. Alphabet had positive retained earnings from 2014 to 2022 with an average of $135.57 Billion over this period.

Another one of Graham's requirements is for a 30% or more cumulative growth rate of the company's earnings per share over the last ten 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%.

We have no record of Alphabet offering a regular dividend.

Alphabet’s Balance Sheet Meets Graham’s Criteria

It was also essential to Graham that the company’s current assets outweigh its current liabilities, and that its long term debt be inferior to the sum of its net current assets (current assets minus total liabilities). This is the aspect of the analysis that most companies fail, yet Alphabet passes comfortably, with an average current ratio of 2.4, and average debt to net current asset ratio of 0.3.


According to Graham's analysis, Alphabet is likely a company of average quality, which does not offer a significant enough margin of safety for a risk averse investor.

2018-02-06 2019-02-06 2020-02-04 2021-02-03 2022-02-02 2023-02-03
Revenue (MM) $110,855 $136,819 $161,857 $182,527 $257,637 $282,836
Gross Margins 59.0% 56.0% 56.0% 54.0% 56.0% 55.0%
Operating Margins 26% 24% 22% 23% 31% 26%
Net Margins 11.0% 22.0% 21.0% 22.0% 30.0% 21.0%
Net Income (MM) $12,662 $30,736 $34,343 $40,269 $76,033 $59,972
Earnings Per Share $0.84 $2.05 $2.3 $2.75 $5.62 $4.42
EPS Growth n/a 144.05% 12.2% 19.57% 104.36% -21.35%
Diluted Shares (MM) 15,015 15,003 14,902 14,664 13,530 13,553
Free Cash Flow (MM) $50,176 $73,110 $78,068 $87,405 $116,292 $122,980
Capital Expenditures (MM) -$13,085 -$25,139 -$23,548 -$22,281 -$24,640 -$31,485
Net Current Assets (MM) $79,515 $80,512 $78,111 $77,224 $80,510 $55,675
Long Term Debt (MM) $3,969 $4,012 $4,554 $13,932 $14,817 $14,701
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.