Stocks

Stocks show expectation, not always reality

Late last week Google reported its Q2 results. If you’ve been reading any of the financial headlines then I couldn’t blame you for thinking the latest set of financial results was troubling. The traditional tech and financial media is ripe with stories about how the Mountain View search giant missed revenue estimates, fell short on earnings and is seeing pressure on the price per click it charges advertisers.

As is often the case in financial reporting, the headlines don’t match reality. If you happen to be a shareholder (as I am) then you can rest assured Google is chugging along just fine. Android users need not worry, as the mothership is poised to make more money than ever before, ensuring lots more awesome product development.

The quick numbers: Google brought in $14.1 billion in quarterly revenue, and this includes Motorola, which was acquired in 2012. Wall Street was expecting Google to bring in $14.4 billion, so the top line was mildly disappointing. But here’s what most headlines miss: Google is primarily an advertising company that cares about long-term quality. Sometimes it changes its policies and kicks some lousy advertising to the curb. That’s what it did in Q2, forcing some advertising partners to either comply with the new rules or leave. Google does this semi-regularly, and it has a small effect on revenue for the quarter. 

(At close on Monday, Google had nearly made up what it lost in that little hissy fit late last week.)

Excluding Motorola, Google still grew 20 percent year over year. That’s nothing to complain about and shows that, despite Google’s size, there seems to be much growth left in the company.

But what about the bottom line? Wall Street didn’t like how earnings per share came in at $9.56 instead of the $10.78 analysts expected. Of course, analyst expectations are based on guesses. Google doesn’t offer detailed guidance, and in the case of Q2 it looks like analysts misread how much the company would ratchet up spending on new projects. So the earnings miss was not the result of a weakness in the core business, or increased competition. No, it was all due to expenses rising faster than revenue, and these expenses are really investments in the company’s future. As a technology geek and investor, this is what I want Google to do. Anything else would be akin to playing it safe and becoming a boring company. No thanks. Give me the bets on future growth instead.

As for Android — it seems pretty clear that the numbers are market-leading and bound to stay that way for a long time. Google is activating 1.5 million Android devices every single day and estimates there are now 900 million devices in use. That’s ridiculously huge compared to any other platform. For perspective, when Apple launched the iPhone5, it has sold a total of 500 million iOS devices to date. As much as I love what Apple is doing, their volume won’t keep up with global Android volume as long as they stick with a premium pricing strategy.

The only part of Google I’m not crazy about is the investment in Motorola. The hardware business is still bleeding cash (it lost $218 million last quarter) and as long as Google is going to heavily court hardware partners, I don’t really see why it wanst to be in this business. But as an investor, I don’t care too much. The net $10 billion investment Google made in Motorola (after factoring out the sale of part of the business) represents about 3 percent of the company’s market value. Hardly something to worry about, wouldn’t you say?