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Investors are clamoring for OpenAI, Microsoft stock amid Sam Altman drama.

Frank DeMatteo |

© Reuters. Investors are clamoring for OpenAI, Microsoft stock amid Sam Altman drama

The recent dramatic firing and re-hiring of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has led to a massive increase in would-be investors in the AI software company behind ChatGPT. An analysis from Venture Smarter showed that Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) searches for "OpenAI stock" soared by 1,200% versus a 90-day high on November 18th, the day after Altman's firing was made public. On November 20th, searches soared again by 354% versus the prior last seven days after an employee revolt was reported.

There is some bad news and good news in this spike in investor interest in OpenAI stock.

First, the bad news. OpenAI is a private company and its stock is not available to be traded publicly on the stock market. At this point, only accredited investors can buy the stock from current private company shareholders when they are available on private stock exchanges like Forge. In late September, before the Altman hullabaloo, OpenAI was looking to sell shares for employees at a valuation of $80-$90 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported. It is unclear where the share sale stands currently amid the current controversy.

Onto the good news. Because most investors can't gain access to OpenAI stock currently, there is the next best thing - Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). In January 2023, Microsoft invested $10 billion in OpenAI at a $29 billion valuation. They now own a 49% stake, which is potentially worth triple their prior investment. In fact, amid Altman's OpenAI firing, Microsoft planned to hire Altlman to continue his AI work. Cooler heads prevailed and Microsoft is supportive of Altman's move back to OpenAI under a new board structure. Investor interest in Micososft's stock also soared, Venture Smarter noted. On the same day that Altman was fired, searches for ‘Buy Microsoft stock’ and ‘MSFT', shot up by 371% and 526%, respectively. In fact, on Wednesday, before the Thanksgiving break, Microsoft tapped a new all-time intra-day and closing high.

Commenting on what the news means for Microsoft, analysts at Mizuho said with or without Altman reporting directly to CEO Satya Nadella, the company stands to benefit the most from generative AI and they would expect the company's partnership with OpenAI to remain strong.

"For MSFT, we are not anticipating any significant changes regarding its governance or entitlements, although some change (to MSFT's benefit) is possible. And most importantly, we would very much expect MSFT's partnership with OpenAI to remain strong," the analysts commented.

"More broadly, notwithstanding a more difficult operating environment, we remain confident that MSFT's growth opportunities over the medium-term and beyond are greater than many realize, and this includes significant Generative AI monetization," the analysts added. They rate the shares of Microsoft a Buy with a $420 price target and Top Pick designation.


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