first_imgBut Google’s shares drooped $8.05, or 1.6 percent, after rising $7.18 to close at $501.50 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Wall Street’s tepid reaction to the fourth-quarter performance illustrates the pressures facing Google as it tries to maintain enough moneymaking momentum to keep shareholders happy while investing heavily in new employees and data centers to support its ambitious plans for the future. To some extent, Google has already spoiled investors by topping analyst expectations in all but one of its 10 quarters as a publicly held company. During that stretch, Google has earned $4.8 billion on $18.6 billion in sales, translating into a $26 profit on every $100. The hefty profit margin is one of the reasons that Google’s stock has increased more than fivefold from an initial public offering price of $85, minting the eight-year-old company with a market value of about $150 billion. SAN FRANCISCO – Google Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit nearly tripled as the online search engine leader once again sprinted past analyst expectations, but the breathtaking growth wasn’t enough to satisfy investors. The Mountain View-based company’s high-flying stock price dipped after Google said it earned $1.03 billion, or $3.29 per share, during the final three months of 2006. That compared with net income of $372.2 million, or $1.22 per share, at the same time in 2005. If not for expenses for employee stock compensation and gains from tax benefits, Google said it would have earned $3.18 per share. That figure easily exceeded the average analyst estimate of $2.92 per share among analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. “To be growing this fast at this stage is phenomenal,” Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive officer, said during a Wednesday interview. “Frankly, I could not be prouder of this company.” Dazzled by Google’s track record, investors now appear to be demanding even bigger things from the company. Management is trying to deliver by expanding into other advertising channels, including print, broadcasting and online video with its recent $1.76 billion acquisition of YouTube. For almost any other company, Google’s fourth-quarter results probably would have been a crowd pleaser. The company’s revenue for the period totaled $3.2 billion, a 67 percent increase from $1.92 billion in the prior year. After subtracting commissions paid to its advertising partners, Google’s fourth-quarter revenue was $2.23 billion. That also exceeded the average analyst estimate of $2.19 billion and represented a 20 percent increase from the third quarter. The sequential change in Google’s quarterly revenue is closely watched by investors. Besides exceeding analyst expectations, Google’s sequential revenue growth also outpaced the 15 percent increase posted by Yahoo Inc., which operates the Internet’s second-largest advertising network.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more