Google-parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) has become a punching bag of late. It failed to appear at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in early September that was attended by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, bringing the spotlight squarely on the empty chairs where Alphabet executives should have been.
Matters went from bad to worse when reports surfaced that the company was considering rolling out censored search in China, a country Google largely abandoned in 2010, again sparking the interest of Congress. The company's been back in the spotlight in recent weeks, on reports that its failing social network, Google+, had exposed the data of more than 500,000 users -- a fact the company failed to make public.
As demonstrated by rival Facebook, though, investors are often more concerned with financial results than public scrutiny. All eyes will be on the numbers when Alphabet reports the results of its third quarter after the market close on Thursday, Oct. 25. Let's look at its most recent results and see what may be in store for the search giant.
A more favorable spotlight
For the second quarter, Alphabet reported revenue of $32.66 billion, up 26% year over year, and exceeding analysts' consensus estimates for just over $32.17 billion. The company's bottom line was negatively impacted by a $5 billion fine doled out by the European Union (EU) for alleged antitrust violations involving its Android operating system. Earnings per share of $4.54 fell 9% compared to the prior-year quarter, but excluding the impact of the fine, adjusted earnings per share of $11.75 jumped 32%, crushing expectations of $9.59 per share.
The company was finally able to calm fears concerning its escalating traffic acquisition costs (TAC) -- the payments Google makes to partners for directing users to its search -- as its total TAC of $6.4 billion grew only 26% year over year, down sequentially from the 35% growth in the first quarter. These have been rising, as mobile search and programmatic advertising carry higher TAC costs. Watch these closely in the third quarter, as the search giant has signaled that the overall pace of growth in these costs should continue to slow.
Other areas of interest
Google's "other" segment -- those businesses outside its core search -- also shined last quarter. Revenue from the segment, which includes Nest thermostats, cloud computing, hardware sales, and Google Play, rose to $4.4 billion, an increase of 36% compared to the prior-year quarter. The segment could one day challenge search as Google's main money-maker, so look for continued strong growth in these businesses in the third quarter.
The company's "other bets" -- those concept companies that have graduated from moonshots -- produced robust growth in the second quarter. The segment, which includes Google Fiber, life sciences division Verily, drone unit Wing, and balloon segment Loon, produced revenue of $145 million, up 49% year over year. Waymo, the company's self-driving car segment, could be a game-changer and is expected to debut the world's first driverless ride-hailing service in the Phoenix metro area later this year. Be on the lookout for updates on the program's progress.
A look ahead
Alphabet doesn't provide specific quarterly revenue or earnings guidance, but for context, we can look to Wall Street's best guess. Analysts' consensus estimates are calling for revenue of $34.03 billion, an increase of 22.5% year over year, and earnings per share of $10.46, up 9.3% compared to the prior-year quarter.
Shareholders will be watching closely to see that the recent negative headlines haven't affected its financial results. If the company is able to keep sales growth up and expenses down, investors ultimately won't care about the recent bad press Alphabet has endured.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Danny Vena owns shares of Alphabet (A shares) and Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares), Facebook, and Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.