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Google shares fell three per cent today, after the company said its growth rate is unsustainable.

The internet search engine company had revenues of $805.9m to the end of September, a 105 per cent increase on the $394m made in the same quarter of 2003. Given such growth, it is unsurprising that the company's regulatory filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) points out that this is unlikely to be sustained into the future.

More significantly, the company says that increased competition in the sector is likely to temper growth. Competition is likely to come from companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo!, which also provide internet portals and sell internet advertising space. Microsoft recently introduced a test version of a new search engine and has announced plans to develop features that make web search a more integrated part of its Windows operating system. Yahoo! has become an increasingly significant competitor, having acquired Overture Services, which offers internet advertising solutions that compete with Google's AdWords and AdSense programs.

"If Microsoft or Yahoo! are successful in providing similar or better web search results compared to ours or leverage their platforms to make their web search services easier to access than ours, we could experience a significant decline in user traffic," Google said in its filing.

The company said that operating margin is likely to decline in 2004, mainly due to a third quarter charge of $201m related to the patent settlement it made with Yahoo! over Adwords.

© ENN

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