Alphabet’s stock dips because advertising was good, but not good enough



Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s stock was tumbling late Tuesday, as a rebound in digital advertising fell short of analysts’ lofty expectations.

The search-engine powerhouse reported a jump in fourth-quarter sales, chiefly through advertising, but Alphabet’s shares
GOOGL,
-1.34%

GOOG,
-1.16%
fell 6.5% in after-hours trading.

Total revenue was $86.3 billion, up 13% from $76 billion a year ago. Sales minus total acquisition costs (TAC) came in at $72.3 billion, compared with $63.1 billion a year ago.

Alphabet reported fourth-quarter net income of $20.7 billion, or $1.64 a share, compared with net income of $13.6 billion, or $1.05 a share, in the year-ago quarter.

“We are pleased with the ongoing strength in Search and the growing contribution from YouTube and Cloud. Each of these is already benefiting from our AI investments and innovation. As we enter the Gemini era, the best is yet to come,” Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in a statement announcing the results.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected on average net earnings of $1.59 a share on revenue of $85.3 billion and ex-TAC revenue of $71.2 billion.

Google’s total advertising sales climbed 11% to $65.5 billion from $59 billion a year ago, falling just shy of analysts’ average expectations of $65.8 billion. YouTube ad sales rose 16% to $9.2 billion from $7.96 billion a year ago. Google Cloud rang up $9.2 billion in sales, up 26% from $7.3 billion.

“Alphabet’s disappointing ad-revenue numbers suggest that corporations worldwide are still uncertain about the pace of interest-rate cuts from global central banks, thus keeping some powder dry while waiting for more clues before opening up their wallets,” Thomas Monteiro, senior analyst at Investing.com, said in an email message.

Alphabet is also ramping up AI initiatives to improve operational efficiency and productivity for 2023 and beyond. The company is using AI in its finance organization and analytics, but Alphabet did not break out AI revenue in Tuesday’s earnings report.

Pichai said generative AI will be folded into search, during a call with analysts now taking place. Philipp Schindler, chief business officer of Google, said AI tools will be tailored to boost long-term advertising sales in a “new search experience.”

During the call, Alphabet Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said the company has slowed hiring as it continues to “reengineer cost base” and stress “organizational efficiency.” Alphabet has announced more than 1,000 job cuts in recent weeks.

Shares of Google have climbed 53% over the past 12 months. The S&P 500 index
SPX
has risen 21% in the past year.



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