The case against Facebook follows a recent antitrust case against Google and new regulation by Beijing to unlock more competition in the Chinese technology sector being quelled by the major players such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. And today, Financial Times is writing about a new EU draft regulation on big technology companies operating in the EU. If a technology platform has more than 45mn users, it will now be catagorised as a systemically important technology platform which will have special obligations to shape information flows. Failing to comply with the new rules could end in fines of up to 6% of their annual turnover. No matter where you look regulation and rules will be applied against the biggest technology companies in the coming years. The main question is how it will impact these companies’ profitability and growth trajectory. It will never be a binary outcome so investors will have time to adjust valuations accordingly.
The case for a very different year for technology stocks
Technology regulation depending on the size and speed next year could begin to impact investor sentiment and valuations of the large technology companies. This could hold back main technology indices, but even more scary is the large pocket of smaller technology companies with very elevated valuations. DoorDash which started trading yesterday is a good example as it is valued at twice the EV/Sales ratio than that of its Chinese counterpart Meituan which is seven times larger on revenue. The high valuations of technology companies are a function of the growth profile, high risk-reward ratio, lower variance on earnings but most importantly low discount rates which inflates high duration (high growth companies with cash flows far into the future) assets.
However, with signs of cost pressures on logistics costs across shipping and last-mile delivery on top of rising food prices and elevated industrial metals prices the potential input costs are rising throughout the global supply chain. The missing piece is higher energy prices which could come if, as we believe, the vaccine rollouts happen much faster than expected. That would create a powerful input cost shock to the system and force the US 10-year interest rate far above 1% and with it pressure on high duration assets such as US technology stocks. We have said before on our morning podcast that the 1% threshold remains our trigger point for calling the big rotation on value vs growth stocks. And if it happens it will be interesting to see how the new influx of retail investors overweight technology stocks react. There are indeed many paths to an interesting 2021 in equities.