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This week in tech: Google flexing AI muscle; PayPal takes it on the chin

By Louis Juricic and Sarina Isaacs -- Here is your weekly Pro Recap on this past week's most momentous tech headlines: Alphabet's Google gets in the AI game; PayPal, Airbnb, and Twilio issue disappointing forecasts; and Zscaler has good news for investors.

InvestingPro subscribers got these headlines in real time, giving them a chance to rapidly readjust their portfolios. See for yourself by starting a 7-day free trial.

Alphabet takes the AI gloves off

Artificial intelligence capabilities are being integrated into Google search, Gmail, and Google Photos, said Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) this past week at its annual I/O conference. The announcement comes in the aftermath of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) headline-making venture into AI with that company's $10 billion investment in ChatGPT and its integration into the tech giant's Bing search product.


The new Google search product, dubbed Search Generative Experience, would be able to verbally answer search queries alongside producing relevant links, and will be available via waitlist for U.S. customers over the coming weeks.

Analysts were positive on the prospects for Alphabet here. Goldman Sachs said that it is

...increasingly constructive on Alphabet's long-term strategic positioning in a number of key end markets and continue to see the company as the leading collection of AI/machine learning-driven businesses in our coverage universe.

Jefferies wrote, regarding Alphabet's generative AI strategy: "We see momentum accelerating, and monetization before year-end." And Evercore ISI said Google has taken the AI gloves off and "reminded everyone of how long it has been investing in, developing, and deploying AI capabilities across all of its offerings."

Alphabet shares gained 4% during the Wednesday session, when the conference took place, and were up nearly 12% for the week.

PayPal slides as analyst says it 'may be stuck'

PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) raised its full-year profit guidance, and first-quarter results topped expectations, but shares slumped on a lowered operating-margin outlook - from +125bps to +100bps - for the full year.

Q1 earnings were $1.17 per share, better than the $1.10 average expectation, driven by cost cuts and an increase in new accounts. And sales of $7.04B edged past the consensus.

Looking ahead, the company now expects to grow adjusted EPS by about 20% to $4.95 - up from prior guidance of 18% growth to $4.87.

Still, at least three analysts downgraded the stock, as InvestingPro subscribers found out first: Credit Suisse to Neutral from Outperform; Edward Jones to Hold from Buy, and Exane BNP Paribas (OTC:BNPQY) to Neutral from Outperform.

Credit Suisse said in a note:

Given the prospects for continued transaction margin pressures throughout 2023 (partly mix driven), PayPal’s vertical skew (discretionary) in an uncertain macro backdrop, a pending management transition, and increasing competitive pressures (longer term), we find it challenging to recommend the shares at this time.

And Oppenheimer believes PayPal stock "may be stuck" in the near term.

PayPal shares crashed more than 18% for the week.

Airbnb warns of slowing growth

Airbnb (NASDAQ:ABNB) said it made $0.18 a share - a swing from last year's loss but also $0.02 shy of Street expectations - on in-line revenue of $1.8B. The company also announced a new share buyback program of up to $2.5B.

Looking ahead to Q2, the company guided revenue in a range of $2.35B to $2.45B, in line with Wall Street estimates, but also said Night and Experiences Booked "will have unfavorable year-over-year comparisons in Q2 2023 as we overlap pent-up 2022 demand following the COVID Omicron variant."

After that, the shares took a quick fall. Morgan Stanley cut the price target to $95 per share and reiterated an Underweight rating on ABNB stock, as InvestingPro reported in real time:

Slower-than-expected forward room night growth (US facing pricing and supply constraints) speak to how forward growth (more reliant on Europe, APAC, LATAM and new business opportunities) could face higher execution risk. Competitive risk (share loss to BKNG) also continues.

Oppenheimer believes that the velocity of 2Q23 nights deceleration will heighten concerns about slowing growth:

We maintain Perform on uncertain back-half outlook and premium valuation, 21x '23E EBITDA vs. BKNG's 15x, limiting NT upside to shares.

Shares tumbled more than 14% for the week.

Twilio slides on deflated outlook

Twilio (NYSE:TWLO) offered a soft Q2 revenue outlook, saying it expects EPS in the range of $0.27-$0.31, compared with the Wall Street consensus of $0.29. Revenue is seen at $980 million to $990M, missing the consensus estimate of $1.05B.

Q1 EPS of $0.47 and revenue of $1.01 billion came in better than anticipated, but Q2 guidance disappointed investors.

For the full year, the company expects non-GAAP income from operations in the range of $275M-$350M.

Oppenheimer cut the stock's price target to $75, citing continued headwinds for Twilio. However, the analyst remains Buy-rated, saying, "the risk/reward is positively skewed."

Bernstein also cut the stock's price target, going to $58:

At this point we remain on the sidelines while waiting for more clarity on the rebound and future.

Shares lost more than 14% for the week to $45.83.


Zscaler (NASDAQ:ZS) shares surged more than 20% Monday after the company's preliminary Q3 results beat expectations: Its top line should be between $415M and $419M, well above the previous guidance range of $396 million to $398 million.

In addition, the company's adjusted income from operations is far higher, now estimated to range between $60M and $64M.

CEO Jay Chaudhry said the company "had a strong finish to the quarter" thanks to high ROI from its Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange platform.

The cloud security company also now expects full-year revenue to range between $1.587B and $1.591B, above the previously forecast range of $1.558 billion to $1.563 billion.

On the heels of that news, CFRA upped the stock to Strong Buy from Buy. Zscaler earnings are expected June 1.

Shares were up 6.5% for the week.

In fast-moving markets, every second counts - and InvestingPro subscribers are always one step ahead with lightning-quick updates.

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Sam Boughedda, Yasin Ebrahim, Senad Karaahmetovic, and Davit Kirakosyan contributed to this report.

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