Google’s strong figures buck tech slump

Google has bucked the downward trend in the technology sector by reporting better-than-expected profits in the final quarter of 2008.

The online search engine’s sales rose as online retailers, including the travel sector, spent more to achieve greater site traffic, while traditional retailers attempted to boost their online sales to reduce falling high street sales.Total revenue, including the commission Google pays to third-party sites to drive traffic, was US$5.7bn, up 18 percent on the same period a year earlier, and up 3 percent on the third quarter.

The company made post tax profits of US$382.4m, a 68 percent drop on the US$1.2bn earned in the same period last year - due to US$1.09bn of exceptional write-downs of investments in AOL and Clearwire. This marks Google’s first decline in profit since its shares began trading in August 2004.

On a country-by-country basis, its revenue in the UK slumped both in the quarter (down 12 percent compared with the previous quarter) and year-on-year (down 1 percent).
Patrick Pichette, SVP and CFO denied that the apparent slowdown in the UK was a sign that the market was maturing.
Google did better in other EMEA markets, with Germany, Netherlands and France performing well.