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Oops! Google Q3 Earnings Come Early

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Trading in Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) shares was halted today due to a publishing glitch with Big G's third-quarter earnings report. The stock plunged 9% before the Nasdaq applied the brakes, because the leaked information was not good news. Trading resumed more than two hours later.

CNBC reports that Google asked for the trading halt when publishing partner R. R. Donnelley (Nasdaq: RRD  ) jumped the gun on the report, which was really scheduled for publishing after hours. A draft version of the report was filed with the SEC without Google's consent. Donnelley's shares fell as much as 6.5% on the news, egg drying on the publisher's face. A gaffe like this could make other companies think twice before entrusting their financial reporting to R. R. Donnelley again.

Early or not, there's no denying that Google's quarter was disappointing. Adjusted earnings dropped 2.6% year over year to $9.03 per share. Sales in Google's core business jumped 19% to $11.5 billion, and the Motorola Mobility acquisition added another $2.6 billion to the top line. Both earnings and sales were well below analyst estimates.

The Motorola division delivered a $151 million non-GAAP operating loss, putting a damper on Google's total profit margins. Motorola's smartphones and set-top boxes sell in decent volumes, mostly thanks to a large presence in Verizon's Droid line, but who cares about high volume when you're losing money overall? Google could use a lesson from Samsung or -- even better -- Apple on how to squeeze profit out of smartphones. For now, Google's hardware business is a loss-leader.

We'll know more when Google pushes out the final version of this report later today, followed by the usual analyst call. I'll sharpen my ears in search of plans for Motorola's future, as well as a deeper explanation of why sales growth is slowing down. For now, all we know is that the cost per advertising click is plunging. The SEC filing doesn't delve into why the cost per click suffered.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google. Check out Anders' bio and holdings, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Google. 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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