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Another quarter, another $14bn in revenue for Google

Profits up despite sagging ad rates

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Google announced an impressive start for its fiscal 2013 on Thursday, reporting first-quarter revenues of $13.97bn – an eyebrow-raising 31 per cent increase from the same quarter last year.

That growth was perhaps not quite so remarkable, however, when you consider that the online ad giant also pulled in $14.42bn in Q4 of 2012 and $14.10bn in Q3.

Still, the strong sales did result in a 16 per cent boost in net income, which was $3.35bn for Q1 of 2013, compared to $2.89bn for the previous quarter and $2.89bn for Q1 of 2012.

Those profits translated into non-GAAP earnings of $11.58 per share, a healthy hike from $10.08 per share in the previous year's quarter.

As usual, the vast majority of the Chocolate Factory's earnings during the quarter came from its various advertising businesses, which together accounted for 92 per cent of the company's revenue.

Ad revenues generated by Google's own sites amounted to $8.64bn, up 18 per cent over the previous year's quarter, while revenues from sites in Google's partner networks were up 12 per cent, to $3.26bn.

The total number of paid clicks, both for Google's own sites and those of its partners, was up 20 per cent over Q1 of 2012 and up 3 per cent over Q4.

Troublingly, however, the rate of return for each of those clicks dipped yet again, continuing a trend that Google has seen for several quarters. This time around, the ad-slinger's cost-per-click was down 4 per cent from Q1 of 2012, and it was also down 4 per cent from Q4.

Google's traffic-acquisition costs – the fees it pays its ad-network partners to bring traffic to its sites – were also up from Q1 of 2012, to $2.96bn, but when viewed as a percentage of ad revenue they held steady at 25 per cent.

On a positive note, proceeds from Google's "Other Revenues" category – which includes, among other things, sales from the Google Play store – broke the $1bn mark for the first time in the quarter, accounting for 8 per cent of the company's revenue. Total sales in the category were $1.05bn, a 150 per cent increase year-on-year.

But questions lingered regarding the future of the Chocolate Factory's underperforming Motorola Mobility unit, which only managed to pull in $1.05bn in revenue this quarter, compared to $1.51bn in the previous quarter, at a loss of $271m.

CEO Larry Page had little insight to offer on that score in Thursday's earnings call, choosing instead to focus on the company's strong earnings performance, as well as its ambitious plans.

"We invest the vast majority of our resources and time in our core projects, as well as our big bets like Chrome, YouTube, and Android. But as CEO, it's also important to stay focused on the future," Page said. "A big part of my job is to get people focused on things that are not just incremental. Think about Gmail. When we released that, we were a search company."

Along those lines, Page said, Google plans to continune to invest in a number of "speculative projects," such as self-driving cars and a certain, much-debated line of wearable headsets.

"I get chills when I use a product that is the future, and that happens when I use Glass," he said.

Page further noted that former Android boss Andy Rubin has begun work on another significant project, but he declined to say what it was.

All in all, it was another successful quarter for the online giant, and investors seemed mostly pleased. Google share price climbed 1.5 per cent in after-hours trading following the earnings call, to $778. ®

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