The most important numbers from Alphabet’s Q4 earnings report — and why they sent the stock down

Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., attends a news conference in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. | Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Alphabet appears to have spooked investors with its fourth-quarter earnings report Monday. The stock shed 3 percent immediately after the report and opened in negative territory Tuesday.

Shares were barely in the red in early trading, despite overall market gains.

The company beat Wall Street expectations on both earnings and revenue. The figures aren’t comparable to the fourth quarter of 2017, so it’s hard to judge growth. But a beat on the top and bottom lines would normally send a stock up, not down.

So here’s what shareholders might have seen that they didn’t like:


Cost per click on Google properties — the rough measure of what Alphabet charges advertisers for each ad served on its web sites — dropped 29 percent from last year and 9 percent from last quarter.

That’s the steepest rate of annual decline in at least 16 quarters and suggests a growing threat from Amazon could be causing a pricing squeeze.


Alphabet paid $7.44 billion during the fourth quarter in traffic acquisition costs — the fees Google pays to companies like Apple to be the default search engine. That’s an increase of 13 percent from the third quarter of this year and an increase of 15 percent from the year-ago quarter.

TAC as a percent of advertising revenue, which investors would want to see shrinking, has held consistent between 23 and 24 percent for the last six quarters.

Capital expenditures

Alphabet reported capital expenditures just north of $7 billion for the period, posting a much more expensive quarter than the $5.63 billion in capex that was projected.

Full-year expenditures for the company spiked 90 percent to $25.14 billion, far outpacing full-year revenue growth of 23 percent. Spending in the company’s Google segment more than doubled from the full year 2017.


Alphabet reported an operating margin of 21 percent for the fourth quarter, lower than the 22 percent margin that was expected and the 23 percent margin it reported this time last year

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