Eye to future, Google trips on earnings miss in present
Released after the market closed Wednesday, Google’s first-quarter earnings surprised Wall Street with revenue and profits that were not quite what was expected from one of its favorite companies.
The New York Times
SAN FRANCISCO — Google’s acquisitions of robotics, artificial intelligence and high-altitude drone satellites have one thing in common: a focus on the future.
But the peril of focusing on what will be big in 2050 is that you can lose sight of 2014. Google’s first-quarter earnings report, released after the market closed Wednesday, surprised Wall Street with revenue and profit not quite what was expected from one of its favorite companies.
Revenue came in $100 million short of expectations, while earnings per share missed by 12 cents.
Still, CEO Larry Page called it “another great quarter” in the news release announcing the results. He added, “We got lots of product improvements done, especially on mobile.”
Wall Street, which had pushed Google stock up $20 a share in earlier trading Wednesday, swiftly took all that away and more. After the earnings report came out, the stock was down $27, to $530.
As Internet users migrate to mobile devices, Google earns less on its ads. Average cost-per-click, a key metric of what advertisers pay Google each time someone clicks on an ad, fell approximately 9 percent from the first quarter of 2013.
The search-and-advertising giant said it had revenue of $15.42 billion for the quarter ended March 31, up 19 percent from a year earlier. Analysts had expected revenue of $15.52 billion.
Earnings per share were $6.27. Analysts had forecast $6.39.
In absolute terms, Google is doing very well. Here is one way to measure its heft: The company is projected to increase its digital-ad revenues this year by more than $5 billion, which is more than the total ad revenues of Yahoo or Microsoft.
The only viable threat to Google comes from Facebook, whose ad revenues are forecast by eMarketer to jump 50 percent this year. Even so, Facebook’s revenues are only about a quarter of Google’s.
Google accounted for 32 percent of digital-ad spending in 2013, eMarketer says, up from 31.3 percent in 2012.
Being the dominant player tends to restrict growth opportunities, however. So Google has been on a buying binge that has little to do with its core business of Internet search and advertising.
It acquired several robotic companies, including Boston Dynamics, maker of BigDog, Cheetah and other mechanical creatures. It bought Nest Labs, which developed an innovative thermostat, for $3.2 billion.
And just this week it bought Titan Aerospace, which makes drone satellites. Google said Titan, which was founded in 2012 and has about 20 employees, could help bring Internet access to millions and help solve problems like deforestation. The purchase price, not disclosed, was likely to be around $75 million.