Left and right, companies are submitting their quarterly financial disclosures this time of year. We talked about Verizon’s earnings earlier today, and we wait for other carriers, smartphone makers and all the other main players in the mobile business to reveal their numbers for Q3 2012. Naturally, Google’s numbers for the period ending on September 30 are of particular interest to us, but who could have predicted what has just happened today?
Google’s Q3 2012 earnings report was leaked to the press a few hours earlier than supposed to. The report revealed a 20% drop in profits for the Search giant which sent Google’s stock on a downward spiral before trading on GOOG was stopped.
Google missed estimates for Q3 2012, reporting earnings of $9.03 per share on revenue of $11.5 billion, with The Street expecting earnings of $10.65 per share or $11.86 billion revenue. That shouldn’t be such a big deal, should it? But apparently it is.
The blame finger for the inadvertent leak was pointed at Google’s financial printer, R. R. Donnelley:
“Earlier this morning RR Donnelley, the financial printer, informed us that they had filed our draft 8K earnings statement without authorization,” a Google spokesperson told CNET in an e-mail. “We have ceased trading on NASDAQ while we work to finalize the document. Once it’s finalized we will release our earnings, resume trading on NASDAQ, and hold our earnings call as normal at 1:30 Pacific Time.”
As soon as news broke out about Google’s underperforming quarter (at least according to analysts,) shares dropped 9% before trading was halted. The stock was trading at around $760 when the shares tanked, and it’s currently at around $695.
Meanwhile, trading has resumed and Google made official its earnings report for the third quarter of the year.
CNET has looked some of the reasons that caused the stock to drop as much in just a few minutes, finding that Motorola’s poor financial performance, but also Google’s own Search-related operations reflected in Q3’s numbers are responsible for what happened. Motorola is still bleeding money for Google, and we can only wonder whether Google’s overpriced subsidiary will ever be profitable for the company.
As for the Search business, while Google is still king of all searches, it looks like the advertising cost-per-click dropped 15% compared to Q3 2011. This is a significant drop – we’re looking at a fourth consecutive decline – exceeding current expectations (6-7% drop).
Ironically for Google, cost-per-click is falling because more clicks originate from mobile devices. You’d think that since Google controls the market share in the smartphone business, it’s able to make lots of cash from mobile searches – after all that was the master plan behind Android all along. But that’s not exactly the case, with several studies out there showing that the most web traffic, and with it the related profits, are not coming from Android devices but from iOS devices. In fact, a recent report showed that web traffic generated by the iPhone 5 in the first weeks after its launch was higher than web traffic from the Galaxy S3.
Is Google in trouble? That’s hardly the case. Sure, the shares saw a significant drop today, and sure, Google did not meet estimates, but Google still turned a profit during the period. $2.18 billion is still money in the bank, even if its 20% less than in Q3 2011 and even if it’s not comparable to the numbers Apple will report in a week or so. Here’s what Larry Page had to say about this ‘troubling’ quarter:
“We had a strong quarter. Revenue was up 45 percent year-on-year, and, at just fourteen years old, we cleared our first $14 billion revenue quarter. I am also really excited about the progress we’re making creating a beautifully simple, intuitive Google experience across all devices.”
However, maybe an alarm signal was raised today. Maybe Google should seriously consider establishing a stronger revenue stream other than Search. And maybe Google should make more money off its Android mobile OS, at least when it comes to mobile searches.