Updated from Feb. 1 Google ( GOOG) shares jumped almost 13% Wednesday morning after the Internet search-engine kingpin posted a blowout fourth quarter. For its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, the Mountain View, Calif., company earned $204 million, or 71 cents a share, up from the year-ago $27 million, or 10 cents a share. So-called net revenue, excluding the fees the company pays its search-engine advertising partners, jumped to $654 million from $503 million in the third quarter. In premarket trading Wednesday, Google was up $24.16 to $216.06, an all-time high for the stock. Using the road map laid out by Google to exclude the costs of stock-based compensation, as Wall Street analysts prefer to, Google earned 87 cents a share in the latest quarter. The Thomson First Call analyst consensus estimate had the company making 77 cents a share. "Google had an exceptional quarter. Revenues and profits increased significantly, our execution was solid across the company and most importantly, our relationship with our users, partners and advertisers became even stronger," said CEO Eric Schmidt. "All of this happened while we continued to innovate, expand around the world and make strategic, long-term investments." Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, which analysts had expected to come in at $368 million, was $425 million. From the third to the fourth quarter, advertising revenue grew 32% on a net basis and 28% on a gross basis, well above the high-teens organic growth that analysts calculated for Yahoo! ( YHOO) over the same period. On a conference call with analysts, Google Chief Financial Officer George Reyes said the company benefited from strong holiday traffic growth and the addition of new partners to the Google Network, or the third-party sites running Google's ads. The company gained AOL Europe -- formerly a Yahoo! partner -- as an affiliate in mid-November.
Reyes told analysts Google believed that in the fourth quarter it became the largest generator of advertising revenue on the Internet. Traffic-acquisition costs, the portion of revenue shared with Google's partners, fell to 77% of Google Network revenue in the latest quarter from 85% a year ago. Part of the reason for the TAC decline, indicated Reyes, was greater traffic growth at sites for which Google has lower TAC obligations. As in the previous quarter, Google said that about 35% of its revenue came from outside the U.S. Schmidt told analysts that the company had set an "extremely" high priority on developing its international business in 2005, and said that the company expected to do "very, very well" internationally. Schmidt spoke optimistically about advertisers' willingness to pony up for the advertising that Google is selling. "We believe that the largest companies worldwide have many, many, many dollars in appropriate currencies to invest in our kind of advertising," Schmidt said. "There does not now seem to be price resistance." Spotlighting Google's unusually beneficent corporate culture, co-founder Sergey Brin told analysts that Google had doled out $12 million dollars' worth of restricted stock to employees in the fourth quarter as part of the company's Founders' Awards recognizing valuable contributions to the company's business. In some cases, said Brin, individual employees received "millions of dollars" worth of stock or received an award substantially exceeding the value of options they held. Shocking very few listeners on the call, Reyes answered a question about employee turnover with the comment, "Our attrition rates are very, very de minimus."