Business

Google Rides Global Ad Recovery to Record Revenue

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Google rode a surge in online holiday spending to record revenue in the fourth quarter, even though it disclosed for the first time continued losses in its closely watched cloud division.

The internet titan’s earnings, released Tuesday afternoon, reflected a continuing recovery in global ad spending that took a hit in early 2020 when people paused travel plans and other purchases in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Google parent

Alphabet Inc.


GOOG 1.38%

posted a record $56.9 billion revenue, up from $43.2 billion a year ago. The company’s advertising units pulled in $46.2 billion, up nearly 22% from a year earlier. Analysts had forecast $52.7 billion in revenue, including $42.3 billion from advertising, according to FactSet.

Alphabet’s profit also rose, to $15.7 billion, from $9.3 billion a year ago. Analysts had expected $11.9 billion.

Ruth Porat,

Google’s financial chief, said the company’s search and YouTube units drove its performance in the quarter. “Consumer and business activity recovered from earlier in the year,” she said.

Alphabet shares jumped more than 5% in after-hours trading. The stock has gained about 17% over the last three months, compared with a roughly 22% gain in the Nasdaq Composite Index.

Google also revealed details about the costs of its cloud division for the first time. While that unit brought in $3.8 billion in revenue, overall it lost $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter. This announcement will enable investors to better compare the results of Google’s cloud business with those of

Amazon.com Inc.

and

Microsoft Corp.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Amazon named its cloud computing guru chief executive officer of its entire business.

Analysts had expected Google’s cloud business to bring in $3.83 billion in revenue, according to FactSet, compared with $2.61 billion a year ago.

Google has managed to sign up big-name clients for its cloud business. On Monday,

Ford Motor Co.

said it had decided to use Google for cloud services to help develop in-car features and manage the reams of data streaming from its vehicles.

The strong holiday season also added to Alphabet’s mountain of cash, which now stands at $26.5 billion. Alphabet recorded a cash position of $20.1 billion at the start of October.

Still, Google is facing growing challenges. A set of antitrust lawsuits allege various abuses of its power over online commerce and digital information. They say Google muscles out competitors and sells out the users it claims to protect.

A small number of employees of Google have also formed a union. They have said their efforts reflect a need for employees to be able to speak out about the company without facing career repercussions.

On Monday, the Labor Department said Google had agreed to pay more than $3.8 million to resolve a case of hiring and pay discrimination at several locations in California and Washington state.

Google said it now has more than 135,000 employees.

Apple and Google have one of Silicon Valley’s most famous rivalries, but behind the scenes they maintain a deal worth $8 billion to $12 billion a year according to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit. Here’s how they came to depend on each other. Photo illustration: Jaden Urbi

Write to Georgia Wells at [email protected]

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