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Google stumbles in 2Q as slump in ad rates deepens

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm •  Published: July 18, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google views the computing shift to smartphones and tablets as a golden opportunity, but the Internet search leader's second-quarter performance served as an unsettling reminder that it poses a nagging financial challenge, too.

The report released Thursday showed Google's average ad rate fell from the previous year for the seventh consecutive quarter. In an unexpected turn, the decline deepened for the first time in a year.

The average ad rate, or "cost per click," fell 6 percent during the three months ending in June. The magnitude of the declines had eased in each of the previous three quarters, raising hopes that the worse was over. Instead, things deteriorated from the 4 percent decline in ad rates during the first three months of the year.

The regression undercut Google's earnings and revenue. Both fell below analyst forecasts, spooking some investors. Google's shares fell $37.18, or 4 percent, to $873.50 in extended trading after the results came out.

Other unwelcomed developments also loomed over the quarter.

Excluding the costs of stock given to employees, Google's operating expenses climbed 27 percent from last year to $4.25 billion. That increase renewed concerns that Google is pouring too much money on far-flung projects, such as the development of driverless cars and balloons equipped with Internet-beaming antennas, instead of focusing on its main business of Internet search and advertising.

Motorola Mobility, a slumping cellphone maker that Google bought for $12.4 billion 14 months ago, also remains a headache. The subsidiary lost $342 million in the latest quarter, widening from $199 million a year earlier, when Google owned Motorola for only part of the reporting period. Motorola now has lost a total of $1.7 billion under Google's ownership, despite layoffs and divestitures that have whittled Motorola's workforce to 4,600 people, down from 20,300 at the same time last year.

Although he wouldn't forecast when Motorola might start making money, Google CEO Larry Page told analysts on a Thursday conference call that he is excited about the upcoming release of a new phone called Moto X. Page provided no further details about the phone, which he and other Google employees have been testing.

If Google backs the Moto X with an expensive marketing blitz, it would drive up the company's expenses again later this year.

Mobile ads, though, were the biggest issue on investors' minds.

Although the problem isn't as severe as at other companies, including computer makers such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., Google is still having trouble navigating a technological transition driving more online activity on to smartphones and tablets. Those devices pose a financial challenge for Google Inc. because their smaller screen sizes fetch lower ad rates than the marketing pitches made on traditional desktop and laptop computers.

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