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Google Shares Rise After Company Outstrips Estimates

Internet search giant Google reported that its quarterly net profit rose 69%, easily topping expectations, driven by market share gains in its Web search business that fueled advertising revenue growth.

"Like last quarter, Google didn't crush the quarter but the Street is getting used to that. And the company is showing good gains versus Yahoo," Global Crown Capital analyst Martin Pyykkonen said.

Net income rose to $1.0 billion, or $3.18 a diluted share, from the year-earlier quarter's $592 million, or $1.95 a share. Excluding one-time items and option expenses, profit was $3.68 per share versus $2.29 per share a year before.

Consensus estimates from analysts put Google's first-quarter earnings at $3.30 a share, according to Thomson Financial.

Gross revenue rose 63% to $3.66 billion, including traffic acquisition costs of $1.13 billion paid out to affiliated Web sites that act as billboards for Google ads.

"Another impressive quarter. There's pretty amazing margin expansion even through the payouts to partners increased to 84%," said analyst Jordan Rohan of RBC Capital Markets. "Despite that, the company is earning more cash flow than anyone expected."

"Revenue was in line with my lofty expectations," he said, "and the earnings number was about 35 cents or 40 cents ahead of the consensus, some of which is related to a lower tax rate."

Revenue for the period came in at $2.53, also beating estimates, which stood at $2.5 billion. In the same period last year, Google reported revenue of $1.5 billion.

"Their gains have extended beyond the point where most people thought was possible," said Rick Meckler, president of money manager LibertyView Capital Management. "For now it's still growing at a phenomenally healthy pace."

As Google gets bigger, revenue growth is set to decelerate to about 50% this year from 67% in 2006.

Meanwhile, it is spending heavily on new services and data centers to run them, putting pressure on margins.

These trends have weighed on the stock, which enjoyed spectacular gains following its initial public offering in August 2004. Shares are up just 3.5% so far this year.

CEO Schmidt 'Ecstatic'

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt sounded exuberant following the company's strong quarterly report, but cautionedthat growth typically slows in the middle of each year.

"We are ecstatic about our financial results this past quarter," Schmidt told analysts and investors on a conference call that followed publication of first-quarter results.

Like other Internet services, Google typically sees slower seasonal growth during the calendar second and third quarters of each year, reflecting historical trends that have held true since the earliest days of the Web.

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