Google posted fourth-quarter sales that topped estimates as retailers spent more on advertising during the holidays, making up for lower ad prices.
Revenue, excluding sales passed on to partners, rose 11 per cent to $13.6 billion, while profit excluding certain items was $12.01 a share, the company said in a statement on Thursday. Analysts on average had projected sales of $13.4 billion and profit of $12.25, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Chief Executive Officer Larry Page is fine-tuning Google's mobile strategy. It's exiting smartphone manufacturing and selling its Motorola handset unit — which had an operating loss of $384 million — to Lenovo Group Ltd for $2.91 billion. While ads on phones make less money than on desktop computers, Google was able to generate income from retailers targeting online shoppers, who boosted e-commerce sales 15 per cent to $61.8 billion during the holiday period, according to EMarketer Inc.
"The holiday shopping season online was strong to very strong," said Scott Kessler, an analyst at S&P Capital IQ Inc in New York who has a hold rating on the stock. "Google more than likely benefited from that."
The stock climbed 58 per cent in 2013, compared with a 30 per cent gain in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.
Operating expenses, excluding the cost of revenues, rose 14 per cent to $5.5 billion. Net income rose 17 per cent to $3.38 billion.
The Mountain View, California-based search provider had bought the Motorola mobile unit for $12.4 billion in 2012, pushing it into direct competition with hardware partners such as Samsung Electronics Co that use Google's Android smartphone software.
Motorola again weighed on results during the fourth quarter. The unit's revenue fell 18 per cent to $1.24 billion.
While the search provider may be selling Motorola, it's continuing to invest. Google earlier this month said it was spending $3.2 billion in cash to buy Nest Labs Inc, the digital thermostat maker led by former Apple Inc executive Tony Fadell. Google, which had $58.7 billion in cash at the end of last quarter, said earlier this week it's buying artificial- intelligence company DeepMind Technologies Ltd.
Google's "other" revenue, which includes the mobile Play store and hardware such as Chromecast, rose 99 per cent from the year ago-period to $1.65 billion.
Within Google's core business, prices for ads fell 11 per cent in the fourth quarter, compared with a decline of 8 per cent in the previous period, At the same time, the volume of clicks on ads jumped 31 per cent compared with a gain of 26 per cent in the earlier period.
"The fact that click pricing is declining so much means they still have work to do on mobile," said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners LP in New York who rates the stock a hold.