It was hard being a Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) bear last quarter. This time around, though, my general bearishness on the search giant seems more apt, given its relatively disappointing second-quarter results.
True, many companies would envy a 28% increase in quarterly profit, but that's a heck of a lot slower than Google's norm -- last quarter, Google's profit increased 69%! This time around, Google earned $2.93 per share; excluding items such as share-based compensation, it rang up $3.56 per share. But that still missed analysts' expectations for $3.59 a share. (Check out Anders Bylund's Foolish Forecast for more on the expectations.)
Google's revenues came in 58% higher at $3.87 billion, but if you take out traffic acquisition costs (or revenues shared with partners), it was $2.72 billion. Last quarter, CEO Eric Schmidt had warned about a summertime slowdown, but given that revenues were so strong at Google, this is more about expenses than anything else. Traffic was also strong, but paid clicks were flat versus last quarter's. (For the lowdown on Google's quarterly numbers, be sure to check out our Fool by Numbers report.)
Indeed, Google's slower earnings growth is mostly blamed on an increase in headcount. The company said that while it's pleased with the talent it has added, it spent more than it planned to on hiring, adding a total of 1,548 people in the second quarter, mostly in sales and marketing and in engineering.
Meanwhile, as well as Google has been doing, it's still in the midst of big-time competition with Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) . Having such large rivals in an atmosphere where it's nearly impossible to avoid a bit of a Web-based "arms race" mentality can be a huge distraction to business, to put it lightly. I can only imagine that the heated competition among these three companies is figuring into the equation at Google. It's funny, though -- in March, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer was quoted as calling Google's hiring pace "insane."
Calling today's results a "miss" is admittedly a bit of a joke, since Google doesn't give guidance. I also know that Google's got long-term plans to think of, which could make its spending a positive step for the long haul. However, I think there's legitimate reason to worry about the ease in which this quickly growing company could lose focus, given the many irons it's got in the fire. (Shouldn't investors be worried about discipline, too, if the company hired and spent more than it planned to?)
Although management mentioned that all of its various products help build the whole ecosystem, we also still know that Google makes most of its big bucks on its main search, despite all the company's other innovations. Google's got plans galore, but I'd say investors will want to see some real results from other channels soon, lest it grow even more difficult to keep the faith.
Search for more Google-related information:
- Google gobbled Postini recently.
- It's Grand Central at Google.
- Revisit Google's first quarter.
- In December, one Fool predicted Google would be the worst stock for 2007.