Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google’s Fourth Quarter: Better Than Any Other Media Company’s

A first quick look at Google’s fourth-quarter earnings: Not bad. The company’s $4.22 billion in net revenue and earnings of $5.10 a share beat Wall Street’s estimates, which were $4.12 billion and $4.96, respectively.

Paid click growth, one of the company’s essential metrics, increased by 18 percent, which is better than Wall Street’s 17 percent guesstimate. Even more promising: Citigroup (C) analyst Mark Mahaney thinks that cost per click growth, increased by three percent, and he and his peers were assuming that number was going to decrease in the last quarter.

There’s been some buzzing about rumored Google (GOOG) layoffs, but the company didn’t mention that. Then again, it turns out that by Google’s standards, it essentially froze hiring during the last three months of the year–headcount increased from 20,123 at the end of September to 20,222 at the end of December. That’s a net increase of 99 people.

Google is trying to appease its existing labor pool, though: It’s letting employees exchange their underwater stock options for new ones via a one-for-one swap. The new options will be priced at Google’s stock price at closing on March 2. The company figures this will cost about $460 million, or little more than 10 percent of this quarter’s net revenue.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s not-that-informative take on the company and the economy at large:

Google performed well in the fourth quarter, despite an increasingly difficult economic environment. Search query growth was strong, revenues were up in most verticals, and we successfully contained costs. It’s unclear how long the global downturn will last, but our focus remains on the long term, and we’ll continue to invest in Google’s core search and ads business as well as in strategic growth areas such as display, mobile, and enterprise.”

Here, again, is what Wall Street was looking for, courtesy of Citibank’s Mahaney (click to enlarge):