Should you buy Alphabet before the stock split?

Alphabet is following the footsteps of other big tech companies like Apple, Tesla, and Nvidia by splitting its stock.

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This article was originally published on All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

During Alphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) fourth-quarter and full-year 2021 earnings call on Feb. 1, the company announced that its board of directors approved a 20-for-1 stock split, effective on July 15. Alphabet is just one of many big tech companies to announce stock splits in recent years. In 2020, FAANG leader Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) completed a stock split, as did Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA). In 2021, semiconductor pioneer Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) completed a stock split, and recently both Amazon and Shopify announced stock splits for later this year.

If you are one of the many investors considering buying into Alphabet stock right now, the announced split raises the question of when to make the purchase. Let's take a look and see if Alphabet is worth an investment now, before the split, or if waiting until after the split occurs better fits your investment profile. 

It might help to take a look at big tech counterparts

Stock splits are generally not meant to change the market value of a company. Rather, when a stock split occurs, the number of outstanding shares increases by a pre-determined multiple. Subsequently, the share price drops in proportion to this ratio such that the overall value of the company doesn't change.

But while the intrinsic value doesn't change, sometimes emotion can outweigh logic in the capital markets, causing stock prices to rise before a stock split occurs. Some investors will choose to buy a stock before the split occurs, hoping that after the split goes into effect and the shares appear less expensive, more investors will buy the stock, thereby boosting the stock price in a short period of time. In essence, these investors are riding the momentum in an effort to generate a short-term profit. Although there is merit to this trading strategy for some types of investors, let's dig into a few examples of why buying before a split, and holding throughout the split event, may be more profitable in the long term.  

As Mark Twain is rumored to have said, "history doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes." When it comes to recent stock splits, more often than not investors have experienced similar paradigms in trading activity.  

Apple completed a stock split on Aug. 31, 2020. On a split-adjusted basis, Apple stock closed at roughly $129 per share following the split. Roughly one month later, the stock price had declined by 10%, closing around $116. However, had an investor held the stock, they would have appreciated a 28% return, as Apple's current stock price is around $166 per share.

Similarly, Tesla completed a stock split on the same day as Apple in 2020. On a split-adjusted basis, Tesla stock closed around $498 per share following the split. Approximately one month later, Tesla's stock had decreased by 14%, closing around $429 per share. Just like with Apple, had investors held Tesla stock throughout the short-term volatility and momentum trading, they would have earned a 96% return, as Tesla now trades at roughly $975 per share.

Then there's Nvidia, which completed a stock split in July 2021. On a split-adjusted basis, the company's stock closed at $186 per share following the split. Roughly one month later Nvidia stock had increased by 12%, to $208 per share. But had you held onto the stock until today, you would have an 18% return, as the stock currently trades for $219 per share.  

The overarching theme in all of these examples is that the stock price has typically increased in the long term, and shown resilience even with short-term momentum traders buying and selling in and out of the stock during these pivotal events. 

Impressive profitable growth 

For the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2021, Alphabet generated $257.6 billion in revenue, up 41% from 2020. The company reported impressive growth across all of its business segments, in both revenue and operating profits. Alphabet's total operating income was $78.7 billion in 2021, up a staggering 91%. These operating profits have had a direct impact on the company's cash flow, and Alphabet has wasted no time deploying these profits into future growth drivers.

So far in 2022, Alphabet has announced two meaningful acquisitions, both in the cloud cybersecurity space. Most recently, the company announced its proposed takeover of Mandiant for $5.4 billion. This deal is particularly interesting because the company stated that Mandiant's products and services will be layered into Alphabet's existing cloud offering, Google Cloud Platform. In 2021, Google Cloud generated $19.2 billion of revenue, but it remains unprofitable as this division lost nearly $3.1 billion. 

Investors should be encouraged that Alphabet's leadership has identified and is actively pursuing future growth catalysts that can be integrated into existing business segments. As investments in digital transformation, and the cloud market more broadly, begin to take shape, Alphabet is well-positioned to benefit from these tailwinds and grow an already impressive business to even bigger heights. 

Identify your investment profile

It is important to remember the time spent in the market is more important than trying to specifically time the market. When it comes to stock splits, there are many different strategies that can result in lucrative profits depending on how you invest. We can see that investors who owned stock in Alphabet's big tech cohorts typically performed better in the long run when compared to investors with short holding time frames.

Between impressive top-line growth, expanding profit margins, and strategic investments in future growth catalyst, Alphabet has given investors several reasons to buy the stock now, before the split, as opposed to waiting until after when the shares appear less expensive but are basically the same. 

This article was originally published on All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

Adam Spatacco owns Alphabet (A shares), Amazon, Apple, Nvidia, and Tesla. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns and has recommended Alphabet (A shares), Amazon, Apple, Nvidia, Shopify, and Tesla. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has recommended Alphabet (C shares) and has recommended the following options: long January 2023 $1,140 calls on Shopify, long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple, short January 2023 $1,160 calls on Shopify, and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, Apple, and Nvidia. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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