It’s been a great year for the stock market and an even greater year for some technology companies. Sure, PC sales had the worst dip on record, but smartphones and tablets running iOS and Android rapidly left the shelves and consumers spent more time – and money – online than ever. Herewith, the 10 companies that produced the greatest gains in shareholder value, and their outlook for 2014.
1. Google (GOOG) – As recently discussed, Google’s 2013 gain exceeded Facebook’s entire market value, two HPs or about five Twitters (TWTR). Thanks largely to the success of its Android phone platform, the search giant demonstrated it could keep growing in an increasingly mobile world, a common trait among several of the year’s biggest gainers. Looking ahead, Google’s core ad business remains quite healthy, with growth from ordinary searches, Youtube videos and Android phones. The outlook for newer initiatives such as Google+ and Google Glass is murkier but this won’t slow the company’s fundamental growth. GAIN: $130.7 billion.
2. Microsoft (MSFT) – It was already looking like a pretty good year for Microsoft shareholders and then came the surprise news in August that CEO Steve Ballmer planned to resign, helping boost the stock to levels last seen in 2000. The appointment of a new CEO next year will be a major factor in which way the share price trends next. The market wants a high-profile outsider, such as Ford (F) CEO Alan Mulally, not a lesser-known insider. GAIN: $93.3 billion.
3. Facebook (FB) – Given up for dead at the end of 2011, another victim of the massive shift to mobile, Facebook proved in 2013 that it had the chops to stay in the ad game even as users shifted to phones and tablets. Now Facebook is well-positioned to take more share of the advertising market, particularly once it rolls out video ads. GAIN: $75.4 billion.
4. Amazon (AMZN) – There was no more profit for Amazon shareholders this year, but that is by design, according to CEO Jeff Bezos, who says he’s spending for the future. Investors will remain fixated on Amazon’s overall revenue growth next year, including growing sales of its cloud services. Competition is intensifying but Bezos built his cloud on a minimal cost structure that should continue to gain market share in 2014. $63.9 billion.
5. Priceline (PCLN) – Give some credit to “Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco and Trekkie god William Shatner for helping Priceline shareholders win big. The two actors appear in popular commercials for Priceline’s fixed-price, discount “Express Deals” program. Next year could be even bigger if the modest economic recovery in the United States strengthens and Europe joins the party, boosting both business and leisure travel. GAIN: $30.2 billion.
6. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) – Talk about given up for dead, shares of venerable PC maker Hewlett Packard finished 2012 at a 10-year low after reporting a huge loss on its Autonomy acquisition. But CEO Meg Whitman spent 2013 relentlessly chopping expenses and improving profit margins at most of the company’s businesses. On the financial engineering side, she reduced debt and pledged to spend more on share buybacks and dividends. Still, next year will be a challenge as PC and printer sales are expected to drop further and competition picks up from newly private Dell, which will be able to cut prices without regard for next quarter’s earnings. GAIN: $24.2 billion.
7. Intel (INTC) – Intel unveiled an impressive series of chip advancements in 2013, making the case that Moore’s Law is still in force. That impressed investors despite the pain of plunging PC sales. Still, Intel's share price actually gained only 19%, lagging the market, and the company has yet to prove it can thrive in an increasingly mobile world. Reality may set in next year, as PC sales are expected to remain weak and Intel’s gains selling cheaper chips for tablets and phones won’t make up the difference. GAIN: $21 billion.
8. Qualcomm (QCOM) – With the dominant chips to get smartphones and tablets online at the fastest speeds, Qualcomm sits in a tech sweet spot. The company’s lead in LTE chips should remain a critical advantage next year (hello, China Mobile) even as overall smartphone sales growth may slow. GAIN: $18.6 billion.
9. Micron Technology (MU) – Memory chip prices ride on a rollercoaster and this year was up. With Micron shares up more than 250% for the year, that has some analysts worried about a correction. Still, famed hedge fund manager David Einhorn said last month that Micron was his best new idea, as consolidation should enhance profits. He’s a tough investor to bet against. GAIN: $17.9 billion.
10. Yahoo – (YHOO) Yahoo, which owns the Yahoo Finance website, was also among the top gainers. The company's stakes in Yahoo Japan and Chinese search engine Alibaba increased in value during the year. GAIN: $17.3 billion.
All data from Factset as of December 11. Calculations include non-traded share classes, such as Google’s Class B shares held mainly by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.