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Google's 2Q revenue gains eclipse earnings miss

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 6:14pm
Michael Liedtke - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press
 
              In this June 5, 2014 photo, a man rides a bike through the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. Google reports quarterly financial results on Thursday, July 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Google's second-quarter earnings rose 6 percent as World Cup fever drove more traffic to the Internet company's search engine and YouTube video site while Android devices spurred more sales of movies, music, books and applications through its mobile store.

The report released Thursday also showed that Google's advertising prices are still dropping to extend a nearly three-year slump. Meanwhile, the company's expenses are steadily rising as it hires more workers, promotes products and ventures to new technological frontiers such as Internet-connected eyewear, driverless cars and robots.

Those trends have frustrated many investors, causing Google's stock to lag the broader market this year even though most analysts still view the company as a prudent long-term investment. The company's shares had gained 4 percent through Thursday's close, compared to a 6 percent increase in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

Investors saw more positives than negatives in the second-quarter numbers as Google's stock added $9.22 to $590.04 in extended trading.

Google Inc. earned $3.4 billion, or $4.99 per share, during the April-June period. That compared to income of $3.2 billion, or $4.77 per share, at the same time last year.

If not for the costs of employee stock compensation, Google said it would have earned $6.08 per share. That figure missed the average analyst target of $6.23 per share, according to FactSet. It marks the third time in the last four quarters that Google's adjusted earnings have fallen below analyst estimates.

Revenue totaled nearly $16 billion, a 22 percent increase from a year ago.

After subtracting the commissions paid to Google's advertising partners, revenue stood at $12.8 billion —nearly $500 million above analysts' projections.

Google's revenue growth is being held back by a persisting decline in the average prices for the ads that appear alongside search results and other Web content, a measure known as "cost per click." The average price fell by 6 percent from the same time last year, marking Google's 11th consecutive quarter of erosion.

Ad prices have been sagging because marketers haven't been willing to pay as much to pitch consumers who are squinting at the smaller screens on the smartphones that are drawing eyeballs away from desktop and laptop computers. Google executives are confident advertisers eventually will be willing to pay more to connect with prospective customers on smartphones and tablets as mobile computing becomes even more pervasive.

The desktop-to-mobile transition would be hurting Google even more if people weren't clicking on ads more frequently. The volume of activity is important because Google bills advertisers when people click on a promotional link. Google's paid clicks during the second quarter climbed 25 percent from last year.

The World Cup soccer tournament that kicked off in mid-June contributed to the higher volume. The tournament ended Sunday, meaning Google will likely reap additional benefits during the current quarter, which ends in September.

Although Google still makes most of its money from Internet searches, the company has been generating more revenue from other channels such as YouTube and its "Play" store that sells content and applications for the more than 1 billion devices running on its Android software.

Google executives consistently say YouTube is attracting more advertisers without providing specifics. The research firm eMarketer is expects YouTube's ad revenue to total $5.6 billion this year, a 51 percent increase from last year.

The Mountain View, California company also doesn't disclose its Play sales, but says the mobile store generates most of its revenue outside of digital ads. Google's non-ad revenue totaled $1.6 billion in the second quarter, a 53 percent increase from last year.

Excluding its cost of revenue, Google's core expenses in the second quarter jumped 26 percent from last year.

The increase included the addition of another 2,200 employees during the quarter. Google hired about 4,300 employees through the first half of the year to increase its payroll to about 52,000 people. The expansion contrasts with a contraction at one of its main rivals, Microsoft Corp., which announced plans Thursday to lay off 18,000 workers.

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