Google’s Q4 net revenue up 39 percent, net income up 14 percent

Google(s goog) announced its fourth quarter earnings Tuesday afternoon, and showed strong growth over its performance a year ago. The company reported $11.34 billion in revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs, up from $8.13 billion from the same quarter a year ago.
Net income was $2.89 billion, or earnings per share at $8.62, compared to $2.71 billion in last year’s fourth quarter. Excluding special items and one-time charges, net income was $3.57 billion, or earnings per share of $10.65, compared to $3.13 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Financial analysts were expecting revenue (excluding traffic-acquisition costs) of $12.36 billion and earnings per share (excluding special items) of $10.52.
However, the company’s earnings report comes as analysts have differed on how to interpret the company’s numbers, which has been complicated by the company’s Motorola acquisition. Google released a memo to financial analysts last week explaining how the Motorola numbers should be taken into account of the company’s earnings.
Google’s revenue figures have always been a little confusing: the company historically treated its “net revenue” number — in Q4, consolidated revenue of $14.42 billion minus traffic-acquisition costs of $3.08 billion — as the most pertinent number. However, it also now reports a core “Google Revenues” number of $12.91 billion, which includes revenue from ads on Google’s own sites, advertising partner sites, and “other” revenue. That core revenue number was up 22 percent compared to last year.
The company reported that the average cost-per-click was down 6 percent compared to the same quarter in 2011, and up 2 percent over the third quarter of 2012.
In Google’s conference call Tuesday following the release of the numbers, CEO Larry Page emphasized that Google’s core business is providing answers to users through any means possible, whether the information comes through search or maps on a browser or voice-recognition software in the car.
“Getting people better answers is really good for our business,” Page said. “We’ve always done a great job of sending people to the right places.” Page, who has had voice troubles in the past, seemed to have some difficulty speaking on Tuesday’s call and took frequent pauses between sentences.
He did not mention Apple by name, but clearly referenced the Apple maps debacle when he noted that Google’s “team has worked extremely hard to build the most extensive maps in the world,” and that YouTube, Chrome, Google Search and Gmail are all among the top-ranked free apps on iOS.
And when asked his opinion on Graph Search, Facebook’s new search product that was noted as a competitor to Google and organizes results from a user’s Facebook friends, Page emphasized the public nature of Google search results: “When we think about search our mission has always been to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”
Page talked about the company’s optimism about advertising prospects on both desktop and mobile, but said he thinks people should stop designing mobile-only versions of sites and instead design for mobile across all platforms.
“I think as an industry we need to improve the experiences,” he said.
This story was updated continuously Tuesday afternoon as it developed.