Will Google's UPI Expansion Make GOOGL a Must-Have Tech Stock?

Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) has decided to help globalize India’s home-grown payments service, Unified Payments Interface (UPI). This instant real-time payment system was developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in 2016 and allows individuals to use a single app to make peer-to-peer payments to or from multiple bank accounts.

Third parties can include UPI in their payment systems or apps, with payments flowing smoothly between all participants. The interface has more than 300 million active users and manages around 10 billion transactions per month. The traffic is not far behind Mastercard Inc. (MA) and nearly half the volume that Visa Inc. (V) handles.

UPI is ubiquitous in India and is one of the largest retail payment systems in terms of transaction value and volume. The payment service has already been made available in other nations, partly to assist Indian tourists as they travel and to facilitate cross-border transactions.

Now, Google has decided to spread these use cases around the globe. On January 18, 2024, Google Pay India and NPCI International Payments Ltd (NIPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of NPCI, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to broaden the transformative impact of UPI to nations beyond India.

The MoU has three key objectives. Firstly, it seeks to expand the use of UPI payments for travelers out of India, allowing them to make transactions abroad seamlessly and conveniently. Secondly, it will help establish UPI-like digital payment systems in other countries, offering a model for seamless financial transactions.

Lastly, the MoU intends to ease the process of remittances between countries by utilizing the UPI infrastructure, thereby simplifying cross-border financial exchanges. These listed objectives are expected to accelerate UPI’s global acceptance, providing foreign merchants easy access to Indian customers who will no longer have to depend only on foreign currency and credit or forex cards to make payments.

“We are delighted to support NIPL towards expanding the reach of UPI to international markets. Google Pay has been a proud and willing collaborator to NPCI and the financial ecosystem, under the regulator’s guidance, and this collaboration is another step towards our commitment to making payments simple, safe and convenient,” said Deeksha Kaushal, Director, Partnerships, Google Pay India.

With this strategic collaboration, Google will not only create new digital finance opportunities for itself but also support the Indian government’s initiative to take UPI global.

India’s Digital Diplomacy Strategy

The recently signed MoU aligns with NPCI’s endeavor to boost India’s position in the global digital payment landscape. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been vocal on the government’s ambitions to take UPI global. At the BRICS summit in August last year, Modi noted that UPI had expanded to other nations, including the UAE, Singapore, and France.

“There are many possibilities of working on this with BRICS countries as well,” he stated.

Further, in an exclusive interview with Business Today, Modi highlighted the fact that 46% of global digital payment transactions today are in India, which he described as “one shining example of the success of our policies,” adding that “the world today sees India as the incubator of innovation.”

Last year, India also topped the global remittance charts. According to a recent report, the World Bank noted that India’s remittance inflows totaled $125 billion in 2023, the highest in the world and well ahead of Mexico ($67 billion) and China ($50 billion). Annual growth was a brisk 12.4%.

GOOGL’s stock has advanced more than 19% over the past six months and nearly 57% over the past year.

Here are other factors that could impact GOOGL’s performance in the near term:

Google’s Remarkable AI Progress

2023 has been a year of significant progress for GOOGL in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and its practical applications. With generative AI, the company is reimagining its products and services. In February 2023, Google launched Bard, its conversational AI service powered by LaMDA. This tool can generate text, translate languages, write different kinds of creative content, and more.

In May, the tech giant reviewed the results of months and years of its foundational and applied work announced on stage at Google I/O. This included its next-generation large language model (LLM), PaLM 2, which is built on advanced compute-optimal scaling, scaled instruction-fine tuning, and enhanced dataset mixture.

By fine-tuning and instruction-tuning PaLM 2 for multiple purposes, the company was able to integrate it into more than 25 Google products and features, including an update to Bard, which enabled multilingual capabilities.

In addition, Search Generative Experience (SDE) uses LLMs to reimagine how to organize information and help people navigate through, creating a more fluid, conversational interaction model for its core Search product, MakerSuite, an easy-to-use prototyping environment for the PaLM API powered by PaLM 2, and many more developments.

The company also introduced DuetAI, its AI-powered collaborator that offers users assistance when they use Google Workspace and Google Cloud.

In June, Google unveiled Imagen Editor, which offers the ability to use region masks and natural language prompts to edit generative images. Later last year, Imagen 2 was released, which improved outputs through a specialized image aesthetics model based on human preferences for qualities like lighting, exposure, and framing.

Further, on November 22, in collaboration with YouTube, the company announced a new DeepMind model, Lyria. It is the most advanced AI music generative model to date that will create vocals, lyrics, and background tracks mimicking the style of popular artists. This model is available on YouTube through two distinct AI experiments – DreamTrack for Shorts and Music AI tools.

Then, in December, GOOGL launched Gemini. Gemini will include a suite of three different sizes: Gemini Ultra, its largest, most capable category; Gemini Pro, which scales across a wide range of tasks; and Gemini Nano, which will be used for specific tasks and mobile devices.

Robust Last Reported Financials

For the third quarter that ended September 30, 2023, Google parent Alphabet’s revenue came in at $76.69 billion, beating analysts’ estimate of $75.73 billion. This compared to revenue of $69.09 billion in the same quarter of 2022.

The company’s Google advertising revenues were $59.65 billion, an increase of 9.5% year-over-year, and its Google Cloud revenues grew 22.5% from the year-ago value to $8.41 billion. Its income from operations came in at $21.34 billion, up 24.6% from the prior year’s quarter.

GOOGL’s income before income taxes rose 30.6% year-over-year to $21.20 billion. The company’s net income rose 41.5% year-over-year to $19.69 billion. It posted net income per share of Class A, Class B, and Class C stock of $1.55, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.45, and up 46.2% year-over-year.

Furthermore, as of September 30, 2023, the company’s cash and cash equivalents stood at $30.70 billion, compared to $21.88 billion as of December 31, 2022. Its current assets were $176.31 billion versus $164.80 billion as of December 31, 2022.

Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s CEO, said, “I’m pleased with our financial results and our product momentum this quarter, with AIdriven innovations across Search, YouTube, Cloud, our Pixel devices and more. We’re continuing to focus on making AI more helpful for everyone; there’s exciting progress and lots more to come.”

Solid Historical Growth

GOOGL’s revenue grew at a 20.1% CAGR over the past three years. Over the same period, the company’s EBITDA and operation income (EBIT) improved at CAGRs of 26% and 32.7%, respectively. Further, its net income and EPS grew at respective CAGRs of 23.2% and 26.3% over the same timeframe.

Additionally, the company’s total assets grew at a CAGR of 9.9% over the past three years, and its levered free cash flow improved at a 36% CAGR.

Optimistic Analyst Estimates

Analysts expect GOOGL’s revenue for the fourth quarter (ended December 2023) to increase 12% year-over-year to $85.20 billion. The consensus EPS estimate of $1.60 for the current quarter indicates a 52.21% year-over-year improvement. Moreover, the company surpassed consensus revenue and EPS estimates in three of the trailing four quarters, which is impressive.

In addition, Street expects GOOGL’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal year (ended December 2023) to increase 8.1% and 26% year-over-year to $305.77 billion and $5.74, respectively. For the fiscal year 2024, the company’s revenue and EPS are expected to grow 11.3% and 15.9% year-over-year to $340.26 billion and $6.66, respectively.

High Profitability

GOOGL’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin of 56.12% is 14.1% higher than the 49.18% industry average. Also, the stock’s trailing-12-month EBIT margin and net income margin of 27.42% and 22.46% are considerably higher than the industry averages of 8.56% and 3.27%, respectively.

Moreover, the stock’s trailing-12-month ROCE, ROTC, and ROTA of 25.33%, 17.36%, and 16.82% are favorably compared to the respective industry averages of 3.53%, 3.48%, and 1.38%. Its trailing-12-month levered FCF margin of 23.81% is 200.2% higher than the industry average of 7.93%.

Bottom Line

Alphabet’s shares climbed nearly 58% last year as tech stocks rallied after a disastrous 2022, driven partly by excitement about AI. The company reported an impressive revenue growth of 11%, returning to double digits for the first time in more than a year alongside a recovery in the digital ad market. Sales and profit both surpassed analysts’ expectations.

Moreover, for GOOGL, 2023 was a remarkable year of groundbreaking advances in AI and computing. Last week, in a memo titled “2024 priorities and the year ahead” that staffers received, Google CEO Sundar Pichai stated that the company has ambitious goals and will be investing in its big priorities this year. This includes AI and spans Google’s consumer to enterprise platforms.

Analysts at JP Morgan named GOOGL as one of their top picks for 2024, with AI primarily assisting in the stock’s significant growth.

GOOGL's partnership with the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) is geared toward extending India's UPI's reach globally, which is expected to yield advantages for the company.

This partnership seems like a suitable strategic move that would support a vital policy objective of the Indian government to broaden the digital payments landscape and provide Google Pay with new growth opportunities.

Considering these factors, GOOGL seems to be a must-have stock for any investment portfolio.