Google misses estimates

World's leading search engine reports sales and profits that are below Wall Street's targets. Stock plunges on news.

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Michal Lev-Ram, Fortune reporter

What makes Google great
Beyond pay and perks at the No. 1 firm on Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For list, employees love the chance to try new things.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Google reported earnings and sales for the fourth quarter that missed Wall Street estimates, sending the stock tumbling after hours.

Shares of the leading Internet search company, which has typically blown away analysts' forecasts, plunged nearly 9% after the closing bell. The stock had risen about 3% in regular trading Thursday. Google's stock has taken a hit in recent weeks, dipping nearly 25% below its all-time high of $747 last November.

Google reported that its fourth-quarter revenue came in at $4.83 billion, up 51% from a year ago. Excluding advertising sales that Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) shares with partners (also known as traffic acquisition costs or TAC), the company reported revenue of $3.39 billion, below the $3.45 billion analysts had expected, according to Thomson Financial.

Google posted net income of $1.44 billion, or $3.79 a share, up 17% percent from a year ago. Profits, after backing out certain gains and charges, came in at $4.43 per share, narrowly missing Wall Street's expectations of $4.44 a share.

"We're very pleased with our performance this quarter," said Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. "It reflects strong momentum in our core business, growing receptivity to our new business initiatives and improved discipline in managing our operating expenses."

Despite worries that the economic slowdown would have a negative impact on online ad budgets, Schmidt told analysts he was optimistic about 2008 in a call after the company's earnings were released, saying he had not seen any "negative impact" from "rumors" of an upcoming recession.

But Google CFO George Reyes admitted to analysts that ad inventory on some of the hottest real estate on the Web - social networks - is "not monetizing as well as expected."

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company's core business is search advertising, but it has recently made a more aggressive push into the mobile industry, launching an operating system called Android for cell phones. The first Android-running mobile devices are expected to come out later this year.

"This is going to make Internet on mobile as frictionless as it is on your desktop," Google cofounder Sergey Brin told analysts Thursday.

Google also has continued to aggressively hire new workers, adding 889 employees in the fourth quarter, half of which were engineers. The company now has a total of 16,805 people in more than 20 countries.

Google also increased its international sales, which now represent 48% of total revenues, up from 44% in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Google's closest search rival, Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500), disappointed Wall Street earlier this week when it announced its fourth-quarter net income fell 23% from a year ago and said that sales for 2008 would be lower than analysts' forecasts.  To top of page

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.