A Reminder of Why Google Wants Motorola

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Remind me again why Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) wants to buy Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) ? With the lackluster fourth quarter that the gadget vendor just put up, my memory needs a little bit of jogging.

Revenue in the quarter was $3.4 billion, which gave way to non-GAAP earnings-per-share of $0.20, a 46% drop from a year ago. On a GAAP basis, Motorola lost $0.27 per share, which simply reverses the positive sign to a negative one compared to last year's $0.27 per share profit.

The Mobile Devices segment, which comprises nearly three-quarters of sales, generated an operating loss of $70 million, which is a big chunk of the $80 million overall loss for the quarter. The division shipped 10.5 million mobile devices in the quarter, of which 5.3 million were smartphones.

Looking at the full year, Motorola cleared $13.1 billion sales, but lost $249 million in the process, widening by 90%. The $285 million in operating red ink that the Mobile Devices generated exploded by 275% over the prior year.

Only 200,000 tablets got a move on this quarter, which is an improvement from the 100,000 XOOM shipments last time around, but vanishingly tiny compared to the 15.4 million iPads that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) just sold. The uptick in tablet shipments may be attributed to two new tablet models in its new Xyboard lineup. It took Motorola all year just to sell 1 million tablets and 18.7 million smartphones.

So, back to my original question: What does Google want for its $12.5 billion? Oh, yeah -- patents. To Motorola's credit, it's been flexing its muscles in patent suits lately, coming out ahead of giants Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and Apple alike. It put up its dukes against Microsoft's Android assault and held its own. It also claimed an initial victory against Cupertino's advances.

With those notches on its belt, maybe Google is on to something after all. The would-be couple are still working "as expeditiously as possible" to have regulators around the world sign off on the deal, including the U.S. Department of Justice and European Commission. Motorola expects the deal to close early this year, assuming all goes according to plan.

The dull figures serve as a reminder that Motorola's underlying business is decidedly not what Google wants.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Microsoft, and Apple; creating a bull call spread position in Apple; and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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