Don't Bail on Google Now

Playing against type, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) posted a second-quarter profit that missed Wall Street's target.

The market's reaction, naturally, is to smack the stock down -- but there's more to Big G's report than meets the black eye.

Yes, adjusted earnings of $6.45 a share fell short of the $6.52 a share analysts were expecting -- it's been about two years since the global search engine leader has come up short. However, Google's profitability is considerably better than the adjusted $5.36 a share it rang up a year ago. Revenue before traffic acquisition costs clocked in at $5.09 billion, ahead of the $4.99 billion that Wall Street was banking on.

High on the top line? Light on the bottom line? This is typically the handiwork of leaner-than-expected margins, but we should give Google a pass here. The company has been spending quite a bit to fend off legal challenges, including its recent YouTube victory against Viacom (NYSE: VIA  ) , as well as hedging its position in China so larger rival Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) doesn't completely dominate that market. The company has also been aggressively ramping up its global workforce.

In other words, Google is doing just fine. Paid clicks rose 15% during the quarter relative to last year's second quarter. They're also paying an average of 4% more per lead. Big G generated $1.61 billion in free cash flow during the past three months, and its cash and short-term investments now weigh in at a hefty $30.1 billion.

During the company's conference call, executives detailed how they are broadening Google's business beyond its bread-and-butter PC-based search business.

  • A partnership with Omnicom (NYSE: OMC  ) will result in the global advertising giant spending hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of its brand-based clients through Google's display advertising platform over the next two years.
  • Its nascent "click to call" technology is working for advertisers that prefer paid search leads to result in phone calls to seal the deal. Google singled out cruise operator Carnival (NYSE: CCL  ) as one advertiser that has seen its marketing performance improve dramatically through the "click to call" feature.
  • Mobile search is up 300% through the first half of the year. Google's Android is a major catalyst there. Google isn't making money directly off of its open source mobile operating system, but it is resulting in broader smartphone adoption and a greater number of Google search queries through wireless handsets.

Google's Android initiative is clearly taking off. Developers have now uploaded 70,000 different apps for Android, nearly double the 40,000 that were available just three months ago. That may be roughly a third of the apps available for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) devices, but Android has emerged as a serious competitor.

Google doesn't provide near-term guidance so analysts are once again on an island when it comes to modeling the search star's financials. Even if last night's report will find analysts revising their projections lower, Google will likely still be trading at a forward earnings multiple in the teens. That's a low price for a dot-com rock star that is still growing at a healthy clip.

What should Google do with its beefy $30.1 billion in greenery? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Baidu and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still uses Google a lot in his daily life. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 1:26 PM, Gonzhouse wrote:

    As Buffett says, if the Company cannot use the cash to increase the value of the firm (meaning that the return is greater than its cost of capital) it should return the excess to the shareholders.

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