Google Parent Alphabet’s Earnings Beat Expectations, Investors Still Worry About Advertising Outlook, Gov’t Regulation – Update

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

UPDATED with details from the earnings call, 3:30 PM: Google parent Alphabet’s earnings surpassed analyst expectations in its first quarter.

The company reported earnings of $9.93 per share, topping Wall Street’s consensus estimates of $9.28 a share. The internet search giant reported revenue of $31.1 billion, exceeding projected revenue of $30.29 billion for the quarter ending March 31.

Alphabet is the first of the internet’s big advertising platforms to report earnings since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in mid-March. Its first quarter results will not be directly impacted, through investors will be listening for clues about the health of the internet ad market following the high-profile Congressional hearings.


In a signal of investor concern Alphabet’s stock traded down ahead of today’s earnings report, with the stock closing at $1,067.45, off $5.51 for the day.

“The big lingering question is around the evolving regulatory landscape that could be on the horizon for Google, as the combination of the negative impact from the Cambridge debacle with Facebook and heightened GDPR standards on the near-term horizon will be front and center for the street on today’s call,” wrote Daniel Ives, head of technology research for GBH Insights.

Google’s advertising business remains the company’s cash-cow, accounting for $26.642 billion in the first quarter, up nearly 20%. That explains Wall Street’s fixation about what might lie ahead on the regulatory front.

The General Data Protection Regulation, which gives European citizens greater control over the gathering and use of their personal information, takes effect on May 25. Goldman Sachs’ managing director Heather Bellini asked how GPDR would impact Google’s advertising business.

“GDPR, I realize, is a fairly new public topic, but for us it’s not new,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai. “We started working on GDPR compliance over 18 months ago. It’s really important and we care about getting it right.”

Internet analyst Mark Mahaney of RBC Capital Markets pressed the issue, asking if these new regulations are likely to impact Google’s ability to target consumers — and therefore become less attractive to advertisers.

Pichai noted that Google’s pretty deft at delivering reliable search results based on a limited number of key words in a query. He expressed confidence that Google could comply with the new regulations, deliver a good user experience and “do all of that with a positive impact for … advertisers.”

Following a recent CNN report of brand advertising running next to videos promoting white nationalists, Nazis, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda the Google CEO talked about YouTube’s efforts to ensure the giant video platform remans a safe place — both for users and advertisers alike.

Pichai said Google removed some 6 million objectionable videos in the fourth quarter about 40% of which were taken down before receiving a single view.

“We are aggressively combatting content that violates our strict rules,” Pichai said.

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