Google 3Q earnings rise 26 pct, top analyst views

October 13, 2011 6:36:39 PM PDT
Google is beating Wall Street's best guesses despite fears about a double dip recession. Thursday's earnings report was much better than analysts expected. Google's stock earned $9.72 a share in the third quarter. The forecast was almost a dollar less at $8.74 a share.

Google knows the U.S. economy is weak, so these latest numbers indicate its boosting profits from online advertising sales overseas, including Australia, Brazil, India, and Asia.

"The word that springs to mind is 'gangbusters;' revenue was up 33 percent year on year, and our quarterly revenue was just short of $10 billion," CEO Larry Page said.

To put it another way, Google made a profit of $2.7 billion for the three months ending last month, up from $2.2 billion for the same quarter a year ago. But its operating margin is slipping -- 31 percent this quarter, compared to 35 percent a year ago. That means Google made 31 cents on every dollar it took in.

Google wins praise for investing in big ideas, such as 3D map graphics and a mobile device payment system called Google Wallet."

But critics say it spends too much on ideas that don't have a practical need. Page has been taking the axe recently to some of those projects.

"It is willing to experiment, take risks, encourage its employees to try something new," Canalys Principal Analyst Chris Jones said. "Some of these will work, some won't work, and they'll close them and move on to the next thing."

Google did hire nearly 2,600 people this past quarter, most of them new college grads, another concern for investors.

"So our goal is to hire the best people at every level and keep them at Google; our hiring has to be manageable if we are to balance our short and long-term needs," Canalys Principal Analyst Chris Jones said.

And Google appears to believe its wallet payment system will pay off, eventually.

"We shouldn't expect anything to happen too quickly; it's going to be a two or three year process in terms of getting the technology into the phones and getting the financial institutions, the mobile operators involved, the technology companies involved, and people like Google as well," Jones said.

Page would not forecast if Google will rein in hiring in the months ahead.


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