It was a tale of mixed news for search and smartphones giant Google Inc. (GOOG) with yesterday’s earnings report. The company reported its Q1 2011 calendar quarter earnings [press release] and while there’s cause for optimism, investors seemed to almost unanimously feel that the bad outweighed the good.
I. The Good News — Great Growth
The good news was that Google continues to beat analyst earnings expectations. It recorded first quarter revenue of $8.58B USD, well above the average analyst prediction. That represents a terrific 27 percent year-to-year growth.
Video ads on YouTube appear to be at last increasing revenue and paid ad-clicks over all recorded a nice 18 percent raise.
And in the conference call on the earnings, Google’s Jeff Huber reported that the company’s smart phone OS, Android, continues on its prodigious growth pace. The OS is now recording 350K activations per day. Not long ago it was a big deal when Android hit 100K activations per day (May 2010) and 200K activations a day (September 2010).
To top off the good news, Android users now have 3 billion apps installed on their smart phones, a testament to the success of Google’s Android Marketplace, which today has over 200,000 apps.
II. The Bad News — Leadership Concerns, Rampant Spending
But the “bad” news, as far as investors were concerned, was Google’s elevated spending pace. One big spending spot was the workforce. Google went on a spending spree, growing its workforce 28 percent.
And Google also gave all its employees a raise last year.
This year, it says it will hire 6,000 more employees (it hired 2,000 in Q1 2011) and raise pay, on average, another 10 percent.
The company also spent a lot of money giving its various departments more funding. It also picked up its pace of acquisitions, something that’s expected to continue as the company tries to fortify its social networking, music, and mobile businesses.
Investors are also concerned about new CEO Larry Page,who assumed the post on April 4. While lauded as a visionary who likely will slash bureaucracy, some wonder if he will offer the same quality of communication that 10-year veteran Eric Schmidt — someone viewed as more of a businessman — offered.
III. Investor Reaction
The company’s investors were off put that Mr. Page only came on the earnings call for a few minutes and failed to deliver a detailed roadmap of his plans for the company. In an interview with Reuters, Jim Tierney, chief investment officer of asset manager WP Stewart, an investment house that holds a significant number of Google shares, states, “My sincere hope is that over time he (Page) enunciates the strategy much more clearly.”
BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis, another major investor expressed more concern about the company’s spending habits than its communication. He remarked, “You got expenses growing faster than revenue and some people were caught by surprise by the willingness of the company to spend. But Larry Page has signaled pretty clearly that he is going to be driving up expenses. If the expenses are targeted and result in future revenue streams, then good for Larry. If not, that results in an undisciplined spending approach.”
Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette tried to quell spending complaints assuring investors that his company was still taking a very “disciplined” approach and that every spending proposal would be “scrubbed and scrutinized.”
Investors seemed unconvinced, though and share prices dipped over 5 percent during the day’s trading.
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