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Surprise: Google's Early 3Q Results Trigger Steep Selloff

October 2012

Google's (GOOG) shares closed down 8% on Thursday after a rollercoaster session caused by the premature release of third-quarter results that badly missed analysts' projections. 


The leaked earnings forced Google to halt trading on its stock, which failed to mount much of a rebound once trading resumed in late afternoon action.


Google blamed the early release on a mistake by R.R. Donnelley (RRD), its financial printer, which Google said filed the company's 8-K earnings statement "without authorization." R.R. Donnelley said it is investigating the premature release. 

Hours after the accidental release, Google released a new 8-K that corrected and superseded the old one, but left the financial results the same.


The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it earned $2.18 billion, or $6.53 a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $2.73 billion, or $8.33 a share, a year earlier.


Excluding one-time items, Google said it earned $9.03 a share, down from $9.72 a year earlier and well below the Street’s view of $10.65.


Revenue soared 45% to $14.10 billion. Excluding traffic acquisition costs, Google’s revenue was $11.3 billion, trailing consensus calls from analysts for $11.8 billion.

Google said its paid clicks jumped 33% year-over-year and 6% from the second quarter. However, the average cost per click declined 15% annually and 3% from the second quarter.


“We had a strong quarter," CEO Larry Page said in a statement, pointing to healthy revenue growth and the company's first $14 billion revenue quarter. “I am also really excited about the progress we’re making creating a beautifully simple, intuitive Google experience across all devices.”


Google's management team didn't have the chance to weigh in on the premature results listed in the Securities and Exchange Commission filing. In place of management commentary was a space that said: “PENDING LARRY QUOTE,” hinting at Google CEO Larry Page.


Trading resumed at about 3:20 p.m. ET after the company worked to "finalize" its earnings statement, which was officially released just after 3:00 p.m. 

Shares of R.R. Donnelley, which Google said "erroneously released early" the results, declined almost 6% before recovering to nearly flat. 


"We are fully engaged in an investigation to determine how this event took place and are pursuing our first obligation -- which is to serve our valued customer," a spokesperson from R.R. Donnelly said in a statement. 


Google's shares were hit harder, closing down 7.95% to $695.42. Google’s results also weighed on the broader markets, driving the Nasdaq Composite about 1% lower.


Trading volume in Google's shares topped 12 million -- about four times the average daily volume over the past month. The selloff wiped out about $22 billion in Google's market value. 


“It was surprisingly bad. I don’t think any of us were expecting them to miss and certainly not miss this big,” Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told FOX Business. “This showcases the fact that their lack of focus is starting to catch up to them.”


Other analysts were less concerned with Google's miss.


“Google continues to rocket forward. Let’s not forget Apple was slammed back in July and they’re doing just fine,” Ken Marlin, an analyst at Marlin & Associates, told FOX Business. “I do think it’s a buying opportunity.”


The search giant disclosed performance information on its newly-acquired Motorola division. The unit suffered an operating loss of $527 million, $505 million of which was the mobile segment and $22 million for the home segment. On a non-GAAP basis, the division posted an operating loss of $151 million.


Google also said its full-time global workforce shrank to 53,546 at the end of the quarter, including 17,428 at Motorola. That compares with 54,604 full-time employees as of the end of the second quarter.

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