Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), the No. 1 search engine, reported third-quarter net income and revenue Thursday that fell well below expectations. The premature announcement came in a federal filing, rather than in a release after the Thursday market close.
Shares of the Mountain View, Calif., tech giant plunged more than 10 percent after the error around 12:30 p.m. EDT. By the close, Google shares had recovered to $695.42, down $60.07, or about 8 percent.
Google, around 3 p.m. EDT officially posted its results, which were exactly as reported in the prior report.
Third-quarter net income was only $2.18 billion, or $6.53 a share, compared with $2.73 billion, or $8.33 a year ago. Revenue rose $45 percent to $14.1 billion.
Analysts had expected Google to report net income to rise nearly 10 percent to $3.45 billion, $10.65 a share on an operating basis. On that basis, income was only $9.03 a share.
The company sent its results early to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, but the text of the announcement included the words “pending Larry quote,” a reference to CEO Larry Page, whose remarks would appear with the earnings announcement.
Google blamed the early filing on financial communications company R. R. Donnelly & Co. (Nasdaq: RRD), which sent the early release to the SEC without authorization. Without further comment, the company said it would release its earnings officially alter and conduct an analyst call.
"Sorry for the scramble," the CEO said as he began the call after the market close.
In his remarks, Page said, "We had a strong quarter. Revenue was up 45 percent year-over year, and, at just 14 years old, we cleared our first $14 billion quarter."
Google also reported its new Motorola unit had a loss of $527 million on revenue of $2.58 billion in the quarter, or 18 percent of overall revenue. The smartphone and set-top box maker was acquired only in May. Smartphones accounted for 69 percent of revenue.
Brian Pitz, analyst with Jefferies, said "a closer look" shows Google's problems relate more to Motorola than to its own core business in search and advertising. Motorola sales were more than $600 million below estimates, he said. That helped send its losses up and impacted the entire company.
But Google's advertising sales rose 18.5 percent to $14.1 billion, and costs and expenses nearly doubled to $11.6 billion, hurting overall profit, the company said.
Mark Mahaney, analyst with Citigroup, said the overall earnings were "light" but kept his "buy" rating, noting higher costs for amortization as well as the costs of absorbing Motorola.
Cash and investments rose to $45.7 billion from $43.1 billion in the second quarter but below the $44.6 billion held last Dec. 31. Google acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in cash in May.
The cash "is a strategic asset that gives us the ability to pounce" and make an acquistion," said CFO Patrick Pichette during the analyst call. But Page quickly interjected, "We have nothing to announce."
On Wednesday, the company announced plans to start selling a $250 Chromebook laptop made by Samsung Electronics (Seoul: 005930) next week, just as Microsoft Cortp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) begins sales of its $499 Surface tablet powered by the new Windows 8 OS. The device will be sold online as well as through retailer Best Buy Inc. (NYSE: BBY) in the U.S.
In that case, an announcement of the sales was released by Best Buy before Google had lifted its own embargo.
David Zielenziger is a veteran editor and journalist who has written for newspapers including the Baltimore Sun, Asian Wall Street Journal and EETimes, as well as for...