In his first conference call as chief executive officer of Google, Larry Page had one simple message for stockholders, investors and Wall St. analysts: we're doing fine.
In January, Google made a huge change at the top with outgoing CEO Eric Schmidt moving to more external matters and incoming chief Page heading up day-to-day operations. Under the guidance of Schmidt, Google had one of the biggest IPOs ever and the company went from a start-up to a tech giant with numerous services and products. Naturally, analysts worried if the change would have an effect of Google's finances. Page was originally CEO of the company during its early days; but gave way to Schmidt, who has a more finance-oriented background.
Thus far, everything about the transition has gone according to plan says Page. He dropped by on the first quarter earnings conference call briefly and touched upon the company's progress.
"I also wanted to mention a little bit about the management changes. Everything we told you last quarter has happened as we expected. It's all working very well, exactly as we planned. I'll just reiterate that quickly. I'm managing the day-to-day operations of Google as the CEO, working very closely with my team, and I'm really excited about the progress we've had there. I think we really hit the ground running," Page said.
Page gave a quick statement at the beginning of the conference call and then left immediately after. He did not stay for the question and answer session.
For the first quarter, Google's revenue increased 27 percent year-over-year with $8.58 billion. Its profit was $2.3 billion, or $7.04 per share, up from $1.96 billion, or $6.06 per share, from last year. Google owned sites represented of total revenues while network ad sites, through AdSense, represented 28 percent of revenues. The company had 26,316 employees at the end of March; up nearly 2,000 from the same time last year.
However, those numbers were achieved under Schmidt. Neither they nor Page's few words on the conference call impress Wall Street, with its what-have-you-done-for-me-lately focus.
Some analysts were alarmed at the company's aggressive 57 percent increase in operating expenses; and saw the eight percent hiring increase as a bad thing.
Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney downgraded Google to "hold." In a note to clients, Mahanay, said, "Forty-five percent year-over-year operating expenses growth with limited management disclosure suggests lack of discipline in a growth/competitive environment that simply isn't as open-ended as it was for Google prior to the recession."
Ross Sandler at RBC Capital Markets cut his price target based on smaller margins, which were largely the result of the expenses that so botehred Mahanay.
This negativity pushed Google's high-priced stock into a significant tumble. It currently sits at $539.23, a $39.28 or 6.79 percent decrease from yesterday's closing price.
Not every analyst was negative on Google. "We do not view expense growth as a major concern. Most of it is a one-time, step-function increase and not a long-term trend," Kaufman Bros. analyst Mayuresh Masurekar said in a note to clients. "Hiring tends to be strong in good times and weak in bad times and the company is investing for growth, which should lead to higher-than-expected revenue growth in 2012 and beyond."
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