Google Gores the Bear

Now is the time for layoffs? Somebody forgot to tell Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) .

"We are producing more relevant ads against more queries every time. Relevancy against commercial queries equals ROI, which equals revenue for Google," CEO Eric Schmidt told analysts in announcing fourth-quarter results yesterday.

Google, in other words, is focused on revenue and profits, and produced plenty of both in the fourth quarter. Revenue rose 18% overall and 22% for Google sites. Revenue from network sites -- those that run Google's AdSense ads -- was up 4%. Aggregate paid clicks rose 18%.

Analysts weren't expecting that sort of growth. Wall Street had called for $4.96 in per-share earnings after accounting for stock-based compensation. Google produced $5.10 a share instead, up 15% over last year's $4.43.

But those gains exclude $1.09 billon in non-cash write-downs of Google's investments in Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) AOL and WiMAX upstart Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) . Include them, and stock-based compensation, and Google earned just $1.21 a share.

That sounds a lot worse than it is. Truth is, Google reined in costs about as well as it ever has. Traffic acquisition costs fell from $1.50 billion in Q3 to $1.48 billion in Q4. Capital expenditures declined by $300 million. What didn't suffer? Research and development; Google spent $100 million more on R&D in the fourth quarter.

Smart. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is set to lay off 5,000. Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) is issuing pink slips, and would-be giant slayers such as Cuil are fading. Now is the time to invest to win.

Make it count, Google.

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Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. Try either of these Foolish services free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. Rich is on Twitter as @RBLevin. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is 15 years young.


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