Google reports Q2 profit, says market 'appears to have stabilized'

Admitting after that the fact that "a quarter ago we had no idea where the bottom was," Google said on Thursday that the bottom was apparently a quarter ago. The company reported its lowest ever growth rate for revenues in its recently ended second quarter, expanding just 3% year-over-year.

The company reported revenues of $5.52 billion for the second quarter. Operating income (GAAP) was $1.87 billion, up about $290 million year over year, but representing a larger percentage (34% vs 29%) of revenues compared to the previous year. Net income (again, GAAP) was $1.48 billion compared to $1.25 billion in Q2'08. And EPS was... insert drum roll here... $4.66, compared to $3.92 last year, and about 25 cents/share above analysts' predictions.

CEO Eric Schmidt, CFO Patrick Pichette, SVP for Product Management Jonathan Rosenberg, and President of Global Sales and Business Development Nikesh Arora were all present for the earnings call, which spilled over into a second Q&A phoner later in the afternoon. Most of the questions presented touched on ad sales, which Pichette characterized as improving now that the larger advertisers are edging back into the game. (Business from smaller advertisers, he said, was steady throughout the worst of the downturn.)

The company confirmed that 378 jobs, mainly in the sales and marketing departments, were dropped during the previous quarter; some headcount reductions were expected after the Q1 call in April. (They want you to know they're still hiring, though -- "check the listings!") The company has $19.3 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term marketable securities available, and like many of the larger tech firms right now, Google "expect[s] to continue to make significant capital expenditures."

The company made a point of saying positive things about high-profile, negative-profit YouTube, which Schmidt sayd Thursday "is now on a trajectory that we're very pleased with." Views of ads-supported video have tripled in the past year, according to Rosenberg, and new ad models such as "pre-roll" (a short ad before the video) are on tap. Those changes are mostly slated for professionally shot videos, for quality control and other reasons. (Rosenberg correctly pointed out that most users can easily tell the difference between professionally shot videos and the rest of the YouTube universe.)

And Chrome OS? There were questions, of course, many asking how Google intends to make money from the endeavor. Schmidt said the the world "needs a faster operating system for the same reason it needs a faster browser -- everyone is doing everything on the Web." For now, though, the focus is on getting the OS ready for chipsets -- Rosenberg confirmed that talks are underway concerning both ARM and Intel -- and, as he put it, "building something truly new." As far as specific revenue models connected to the OS, "we won't really know for a year or two."

The market, perhaps distracted by IBM's more surprisingly sunny call held at the same time (1:30 pm PDT), was underwhelmed, with prices trending down in after-hours trading.

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