Google’s 4Q disappoints as ad prices sink

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ? Google’s moneymaking machine misfired badly in the fourth quarter as its advertising prices fell during the holiday marketing season.

The results announced Thursday fell way below the lofty expectations of stock market analysts. That caused Google’s shares to plunge more than 9 percent after the numbers were released.

Google Inc. earned $2.7 billion, or $8.22 per share, during the October-to-December period. That’s just a 6 percent increase from $2.5 billion, or $7.81 per share, at the same time in 2010.

If not for certain items, Google says it would have earned $9.50 per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected $10.51 per share.

Revenue climbed 25 percent from the previous year to nearly $10.6 billion.

After subtracting ad commissions, Google’s revenue totaled $8.1 billion. That was about $300 million below the average analyst forecast.

The disappointing performance stemmed from a surprising downturn in the prices that the Internet search leader collects for each click. The average price declined 8 percent from the same time in 2010.

The erosion reversed what had been happening earlier in the year. The year-over-year increases in Google’s price per ad click had ranged from 5 percent to 12 percent increase in the first three quarters of 2010.

The fourth quarter marked the first time Google’s revenue surpassed $10 billion for any three-month period in the company’s 13-year history.

Reaching that milestone wasn’t enough to impress investors. Google shares shed $58.56 to $581.01 in Thursday’s extended trading.