Based on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) 5% stock price run-up leading up to its April 23 earnings announcement, investors were expecting a better-than-average 2015 Q1. The Street anticipated that Google would, at the very least, meet consensus revenue estimates for the quarter of $17.5 billion, and earnings per share of $6.60.
There are a couple of questions, however -- primarily, Google's ongoing decline in its cost-per-click, or CPC, rates. There are also concerns surrounding its mobile ad and mobile search results. Though Google didn't exactly blow Q1 out of the water, based on rabid after-hours trading, investors didn't seem too bothered by its ho-hum results.
Just the facts
Google missed analyst revenue estimates, generating $17.26 billion in sales in 2015's first quarter, a 12% improvement over the year-ago period. As was the case with Google's primary digital advertising competitor Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) in its own Q1, a strong dollar hit first-quarter results hard.
According to outgoing Google CFO Patrick Pichette, if not for "foreign currency headwinds," revenues would have improved 17% to slightly more than $18 billion. That's more than empty talk, because Google generated more than $10 billion of its revenues outside the U.S. last quarter.
On a non-GAAP basis, Google also missed earnings-per-share estimates of $6.60 by a few cents, ending Q1 with $6.57 per share, an only so-so 5% improvement over last year. Google's bottom line was helped by an impressive quarter of "other revenues." This is where Google parks its app development sales, among other things, and the unit grew at twice the rate of its ad sales.
Of Google's $17.26 billion in revenues, ads made up the lion's share -- $15.5 billion. However, the largest growth area as measured by year-over-year percentage gains was Google's other revenues, which jumped 23%, to $1.75 billion. As per Pichette during the earnings call, Google Play was cited as a primary driver for the unit's impressive performance.
Now, the rest of the story
Google management isn't willing to share mobile-specific ad revenues as a percentage of its total. Pichette did say that, "We continue to see great momentum in our mobile advertising," and he added that mobile search was also growing. Again, in Google-like fashion, YouTube revenues weren't broken out; however, Google said the site makes up a growing piece of Google's overall revenue pie.
As for the ongoing pressures on cost-per-click, the news wasn't good -- though there was an ever-so-slight silver lining. On Google's sites, CPC rates declined a whopping 13%; however, they improved slightly compared to Q1 2014 on its Member sites by 2%. Not a pretty picture, right?
However, as in the last several quarters when CPC rates have declined, Google's sheer volume of searches continued to make up for sagging rates. Last quarter was yet another example, as paid clicks jumped 25%, essentially negating another tough quarter for click.
Operating expenses in Q1 jumped significantly, to $6.46 billion from 2014's $5.3 billion in overhead. According to Pichette, much of the increase was building out infrastructure, developing advertising analysis tools, and data centers, among other costs. Will increased spending continue? Google opted to avoid that question, but it's likely to occur, as additional mobile-related and computing solutions drive future growth.
Perhaps most exciting for Google investors is the emphasis during its conference call on the potential of YouTube in the world of video advertising. Certainly, management isn't new to the notion that YouTube offers tremendous upside. It's almost as if Google has pushed aside questions about its potential in the past; but not anymore.
Google is trading up more than $21 a share after hours, equal to nearly a 4% pop. Is that warranted based on the earnings report? The answer is no... that's "knocking it out of the park" type of buying behavior.
However, Google did have a sound quarter, and seems to be laying the foundation for a successful future. Now, if it would just share some of its $65.44 billion in cash and equivalents with its shareholders -- but that's another story.