At a time of deep, industry-wide trepidation, Google Inc.'s latest earnings results are downright reassuring.
The world's most popular search engine reported slightly better-than-expected fourth-quarter numbers on Tuesday, helping soothe investors who had been worried of late not only about Google, but virtually every major player in the smartphone business. Google reported consolidated revenues of $14.4-billion (U.S.) for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2012, a 36-per-cent increase over the same period a year earlier. The company also posted adjusted earnings per share of $10.65 for the quarter.
Analysts on average had expected revenue of $12.3-billion and EPS of $10.47, according to Thomson Reuters.
Google's earnings come at a time of growing uncertainty in the wider mobile device market. The company's chief rival in the industry, Apple, reports its own earnings on Wednesday, with Microsoft poised to report a day later. In the case of Apple, some investors will be looking at iPhone sales growth for any signs that consumers are starting to feel Apple product fatigue. In Microsoft's case, there will be significant pressure for the company to show that its new, mobile-focused strategy is starting to generate meaningful results.
Next week, Research In Motion Ltd. takes the stage, looking to fight off uncertainty around its own prospects with the launch of the first BlackBerry 10 devices.
Google, for its part, hit $50-billion in revenues for the first time last year – "not a bad achievement in just a decade and a half," chief executive officer Larry Page said in a statement. "In today's multi-screen world we face tremendous opportunities as a technology company focused on user benefit. It's an incredibly exciting time to be at Google."
Even as Google focuses more energy on mobile devices, video services and a number of still-speculative product ideas, the positive fourth-quarter results were largely attributable to a significant jump in the company's core Internet business. Advertising revenue surged 20 per cent in the quarter, as Google introduced new advertising products, and businesses turned to the search engine to target consumers during the lucrative holiday shopping period.
In the lead-up to Google's results, some investors and analysts became worried when the company released a rare advisory. The company warned that analysts may not have fully accounted for Google's recent sale of Motorola's cable box division (Google had earlier purchased Motorola Mobility for $12.5-billion). Some analysts were also concerned about the costs related to Google's efforts to establish itself in myriad industries, including the mobile market with its Android operating system for smartphones and tablets.
"While we appreciate that Google is chasing after significant opportunities with its efforts in smart phones, tablets, and broadband internet access, and understand the company is positioning to possibly generate meaningful future revenue streams, we remain concerned on the degree of expense being created," BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis said in a note prior to Google's results.
Investors seemed pleased with Google's fourth-quarter numbers – the company's share price jumped almost 5 per cent in after-hours trading on Tuesday.