Alphabet's first-quarter results came with a clear message to Wall Street: the company is embarking on a new spending binge to chase its biggest rivals. Google's parent posted the strongest sales growth in almost four years this week, indicating that marketers kept flocking to its services amid rising scrutiny of digital ads. But the company also spent at historic levels, nearly tripling capital expenditure for the quarter to $7.7-billion (about R96-billion). Almost all of that spending went to buttress newer cloud and consumer-device businesses that lag behind leaders Amazon and Apple. After neglecting these markets for years in favour of its main ad businesses and riskier moonshot bets, Alphabet is now splurging to catch up. "The big story from the results was the significant rise in expenses," Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group, wrote in a note to investors. He cut his price target on Alphabet shares to $970 from $1040, citing worse-than-expected margin compressio...

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