Is Google About to Pull a Microsoft?

Thirteen years ago Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) ruled the stock world.

In 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom, Microsoft became the first-ever company to achieve a $600 billion valuation. By the turn of the century, the company reached an apex of a $619 billion valuation – an unfathomable number at the time. Shares of the powerful tech stock reached an all-time high of nearly $59.

But it was around that time that Microsoft lost a lawsuit in which Federal regulators came after Microsoft for abusing monopoly power by bundling its Internet Explorer and Microsoft Windows web browsing systems. In November 1999, a judge ruled that Microsoft was indeed in violation of monopoly laws.

The company lost its vice grip on the burgeoning dot-com landscape, and within a year the stock had plummeted all the way to $21 a share. The stock hasn’t risen much in the 12-plus years since, trading at just under $32 a share as the market closed today. Its market cap is now a comparatively paltry $268 billion.

Now Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) could be facing a similar situation. 

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that a federal investigation into whether Google is violating antitrust laws is escalating. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether the search-engine giant is manipulating its search results so that competing companies have a harder time appearing at the top of a search results page.

No formal case has been brought. But there are rumblings that a lawsuit is imminent. And that would be very bad news for Google – currently the 11th-richest publicly traded company in the world by market cap.

If it’s anything like the Microsoft monopoly case 13 years ago, this might not end well for Google stock.

Stay tuned.

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