Friday, April 13, 2012

Google announces Q1 2012 results, stock split with new class of shares

Google announced its earnings on Thursday, but besides the financials, the company announced something investors have asked about for some time: a stock split, "of sorts."

The company already had two different classes of stock, Class B which is owned by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin along with some high-ranking executives, and Class A, which is traded on NASDAQ as GOOG. Class B is not publicly traded, and has 10x the voting rights of Class A.

The new shares, Class C, will be offered to current investors on 1-1 basis with their Class A shares, but the Class C shares will have no voting rights. The Class C shares will be traded on NASDAQ with a still unannounced ticker symbol.

Since the new class of stock includes no voting rights, it means that co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will keep their voting power. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of April of 2011 Page, Brin and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt collectively controlled nearly 70 percent of the voting power, thanks to their ownership of Class B shares.

The company explained its move as follows:

"These shares will be distributed via a stock dividend to all existing stockholders: the owner of each existing share will receive one new share of the non-voting stock, giving investors twice the number of shares they had before. It’s effectively a two-for-one stock split—something many of our investors have long asked us for. These non-voting shares will be available for corporate uses, like equity-based employee compensation, that might otherwise dilute our governance structure.

"We recognize that some people, particularly those who opposed this structure at the start, won’t support this change—and we understand that other companies have been very successful with more traditional governance models. But after careful consideration with our board of directors, we have decided that maintaining this founder-led approach is in the best interests of Google, our shareholders and our users. Having the flexibility to use stock without diluting our structure will help ensure we are set up for success for decades to come."

Meanwhile, the company's financials were good, but fell short of Apple-style proportions, as Google's overall revenue is still less than Apple's profit. That said, revenues for Q1 2012 were $10.65 billion, an increase of 24 percent year-over-year. It was, however, only up slightly from the $10.58 billion from last quarter. Profit was $3.39 billion, up from $2.3 billion year-over-year and $2.71 billion last quarter.

One negative point was that cost-per-click (CPC), which is the amount advertisers pay Google when users click on their ads, fell 12 percent year-over-year. That followed an 8 percent drop during Q4 2011. The number of paid clicks more than offset that drop, however, with a jump of 39 percent from the prior year.

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