Will Alphabet make good on its bets?

Google Alphabet.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Google Alphabet.

Monday's earnings report will mark a new day for Google's parent company.

For the first time, Alphabet will break out revenue for its core products — search, mobile and video — and separately account for the cost of its experimental projects when the company reports quarterly earnings after the bell Monday.

Set to report fourth-quarter 2015 earnings on Feb. 1, Alphabet has already warned investors that for the first time there will be two reported segments: Google, which includes main Internet products and what the company literally calls "other bets," which includes some of the company's more experimental ventures.

The upcoming segment disclosure is likely to "highlight Core Google's profitability" wrote analysts at RBC Capital Markets in a note. But Wall Street would get a pleasant surprise if the "other bets" line item ends up with anything but a pair of big, fat parentheses.

Other bets

"Quite how bad is the profit situation in the 'other bets'? Are they losing hundreds of millions a quarter? Is it more? Is it less? Is it becoming more profitable over time? That's a big question," said Jan Dawson, a consultant and researcher that works with major technology firms.

Overall, analysts predict Alphabet's profit on Class C shares will have grown 18 percent year on year to $8.09 per share, on revenue of $20.763 billion, up 43 percent year over year, according to Thomson Reuters' consensus. Class A earnings per share are expected to have grown 18 percent year over year to $8.10 on $20.764 billion in revenue, a 15 percent increase.

But Alphabet's ancillary products — the sexier, headline advances that require heavy research and development investments — are in some cases far from being released, let alone monetized.

RBC estimates operating losses of $3 billion to $6 billion for 2015 for Alphabet's moonshot projects, which include Google Fiber, Calico, Nest, Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), GV (formerly Google Ventures), Google Capital, X (formerly Google [X]) and other initiatives, according to the company. Macquerie also estimates that shareholders "derive negative value" from these projects.

That's not to say that's a bad thing long term — both research firms predict long-term potential for some moonshot projects, particularly self-driving vehicles, Nest and Google Fiber.

"Google gets rewarded for their capex," said Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer at Tigress Financial Partners. "Do you know what people said when they bought YouTube? Dumbest move ever. You know what they say now? Smartest move ever."

Feinseth highlighted Google's fumbled acquisition of Motorola Mobility five years ago. "Even after they took a hit, they were applauded for taking risks," Feinseth said.

Still, the current reporting structures lumps the smart home company and high-speed Internet firm into a single line item with Alphabet's more embattled schemes.

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If any moonshot projects make money, Dawson is betting on venture capital arm Google Ventures and perhaps some partnerships within Verily.

Self-driving cars are most well-publicized of Alphabet's satellite undertakings, but it's not clear whether their road to revenue is through an agreement with automakers, a software licencing agreement or an Uber-like service, said Dawson.

And Nest, another closer-to-market product, might make money, but has been slammed for glitches that left users in the cold. That's on top of rumors in Silicon Valley that Nest is struggling to keep top talent, according to entrepreneur and angel investor Jason Calacanis, who spoke with CNBC in December.

Then there's Google Glass, which has faded into the social media shadows even as Facebook and Microsoft up their bids on augmented reality headsets.

Google core

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Luckily, as Feinseth points out, Google has around $98 per share of excess cash to throw at new ideas while it maintains a bustling core.

In the core business, RBC analysts expect "hyper growth" from YouTube and Google Play and are watching closely for data on mobile search and programmatic advertising revenue, although management is unlikely to share granular data. Search and advertising revenue are both expected to have grown.

Feinseth said he'll be watching for color on how core businesses like Google Play can monetize other Alphabet products like Chromecast and vehicles.

The stakes

It all comes in an earnings season when stakes have proven high for other technology companies. Amazon posted steep stock declines, while Microsoft saw a big boost.

"With Microsoft, the market showed it favors predictable revenue and cash streams," Feinseth said.

Most notably, fellow ad platform Facebook saw shares soar 15 percent on its earnings beat, positioning itself as a key rival to Alphabet. And while Alphabet's new reporting system may provide, as RBC says, a "catalyst" to stock growth, there is still a lot to be desired compared to competitors.

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Facebook proved stellar in monetizing mobile advertising, an area where Alphabet is thought to be weak, Dawson said. And without detailed reporting of core revenue streams, mobile continue to be a wildcard for investors this quarter.

Google's position as the default iOS search engine might be up for grabs, RBC writes, while improved search functions within Amazon and mobile apps may have reduced user demand for searching in a browser, writes Macquerie analyst Ben Schachter.

Further, hardware makers associated with the Android platform, like LG, HTC and Samsung are also faced with a challenging landscape. And Facebook video provides an attractive alternative to content makers currently on YouTube, Dawson said.

Until Alphabet refines its reporting structure, investors will be left to wonder. Either way, Feinseth said, Google remains "one of the world's most fascinating companies."

Disclosures: Alphabet is not a client of Dawson. Accounts managed by Tigress Capital Advisors LLC, and/or an employee or an affiliated entity currently hold a position in Google. RBC Capital Markets has provided Alphabet with non-investment banking securities-related services in the past year; RBC also makes a market in Alphabet. A member company of RBC Capital Markets or one of its affiliates received compensation for products or services other than investment banking services from Alphabet in the past year. During this time, a member company of RBC Capital Markets or one of its affiliates provided nonsecurities services to Alphabet.