Has Google peaked?

Barron’s, the influential US financial publication, seems to think so. Excerpt from an interesting piece:

INVESTORS HAVE BEEN FIXATED on Google the past few weeks, as its shares have tumbled nearly 25% from a peak of $475 — and the fact is, there could be a lot more tumbling ahead. The share price could well be cut in half over the next year as the Internet giant grapples with growing competition from Microsoft and Yahoo!, increased pricing pressures in its online ad sales and mounting concern about what’s known as click fraud.

Barron’s thinks that Google stock is overvalued by at least a factor of two. Reasoning:

To get a sense of what might happen to the stock, we gave one ├╝ber-bull’s 2006 revenue estimate for Google a 20% haircut, trimmed his projected expenses by 5% (but no further, because bulls greatly underestimate Google’s costs), deducted stock-based compensation and, generously, gave the company credit for the considerable interest income on its cash. The result: Earnings would be 30% lower than the bull’s projection, at $6.28 a share. If the stock were to maintain its current multiple of 41 on those lowered earnings, it would be worth $257. It’s more likely the multiple would shrink to as low as 30, in line with the slower growth. That would make the stock worth $188, versus its recent $360.

Since I don’t own any shares, it’s all theoretical to me. But it goes to show how overheated the Google stock-hype (with some people fantasising about a share price of $2000) could turn out to be.