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Google Results Jump but Don't Beat 'Whisper Number'

CNBC.com with Reuters
Thursday, 15 Apr 2010 | 6:36 PM ET

Googlereported improved quarterly results that topped expectations, but that wasn't enough to please investors accustomed to blockbuster quarters from the company.

Google Headquarters
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Google Headquarters

The world's most popular search engine and advertising giant said it earned $6.76 a share in its first quarter excluding one-time items, up from $5.16 a share last year.

Sales for the most recent quarter rose to $5.04 billion, excluding traffic acquisition costs (TAC), or the amount that Google pays to other Web sites that send it visitors.

This time last year, Google's revenue stood at $4.069 billion on a comparable basis.

Google said its TAC rose to $1.71 billion from $1.44 billion last year.

Wall Street saw Google earning $6.60 a share on sales of $4.954 billion, according to a consensus estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters, though the company's "whisper" earnings number was cited by sources as near $6.76 a share.

Whisper numbers are unpublished profit forecasts that circulate among investors.

"It's similar to the fourth-quarter report for Google, where sustained strength in the economy and previously announced tech earnings may have gotten people anticipating a bigger beat," said Analyst Clayton Moran of The Benchmark Company.

Google stock was down more than 4 percent in extended trading Thursday. Click here to get after-hour quotes for Google.

Investors were also caught off guard by the company's announcement that Chief Executive Eric Schmidt would no longer take part in quarterly earnings conference calls, as it aims to "streamline" the process for such calls.

Google said the decision should not be interpreted as having any other meaning about Schmidt's role at the company.

The shares finished the regular Nasdaq session at $595.76.

"The first quarter earnings season to date has exceeded consensus expectations by a wide margin and investors had priced in a blockbuster report from Google... a lot of those expectations were probably priced into the stock," said Channing Smith, vice president of Capital Advisors.

"The report was good on the top and bottom line but it wasn't good enough for what has become the rising expectations in this market," Smith said.

Google posted net income—which includes one-time charges and other items—of $1.96 billion, or $6.06 a share, compared with net income of $1.42 billion, or $4.49 a share, in the year-earlier period.

Analysts said key indicators for the quarter—including a 7 percent rise in average cost-per-click, which feeds into sales—appeared strong, even if investors had hoped for more from a company that had beaten earnings forecasts in seven of the past eight quarters.

"All the metrics were good," said Capital Advisors' Smith. "They just weren't good enough."

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