Google sucks up to Wall Street

This morning’s Observer column

Google floated at $85 a share, which Wall Street saw as too high. Then the price began its apparently inexorable climb until January, when it reached $475 and some carpet-chewing stock-pickers began talking about $2,000 a share. The strategy of thumbing a nose at the Street seemed to be paying off, and the sainted duo could do no wrong. But then, finally, rationality intervened, the curve turned down and everything started to look different. There’s nothing quite like a falling share price to concentrate the analytical mind.

The turnaround also had a salutary effect on Google management. Gone was the aloof disdain for stockholders’ grubby obsession with short-term fluctuations in share price. In its place came an elaborate exercise in massaging the perceptions and expectations of analysts. In a series of high-level presentations, the Googlers explained that everything was hunky-dory, really; that they were on course for world domination and their rightful place in the sun as a $100bn company; that all that stuff about click-fraud was a storm in a teacup; and that they had tons of really cool stuff up their corporate sleeves…