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850,000 Android devices are activated every day, Google's search business continues to rise in profits

Google Inc. (GOOG) isn't number one in the tech industry in profit (that would be Apple, Inc. (AAPL) -- $13.06B USD in Q1 2012) or in market cap (again, Apple -- $578B USD).  But Google is still a giant in its own right, ruler of all things search, and owner of the most used smartphone operating system in the world, Android.

I. Core Earnings

Google just reported its fiscal Q1 results and everything is looking fine and dandy.

Profit rose to $2.89B USD (non-GAAP; GAAP: $2.65B USD) vs. $1.80B USD (non-GAAP) a year ago.  The earnings were more than 4 percent better than the analyst consensus.  Net revenue rose to $10.65B USD, up from $8.58B USD in Q1 2011.  That's a rise of 24 percent.

Search on Google
Search continues to drive Google's profits. [Image Source: Google Images/Unknown]

A major portion of Google's revenue goes to so-called "traffic acquisition costs", which include deals with top browser makers, etc., which funnel search traffic to Google's homepage, but also cost it money.  These costs rose from $2.04B USD to $2.51B USD on a year-to-year basis (up 26 percent).  However, paid clicks rose 39 percent, indicating Google is getting more bang for its buck and not simply buying more hits.

The company declined to break down revenue by a per-product basis, other than for YouTube and Search.

II. Vital Signs

Quick vital signs on core Google offerings:
  • Chrome: 200 million users (a figure that appears not to include Android Chrome)
  • YouTube: $5B per year USD in display ad revenue.
  • Android: 850,000 activations a day (310m devices a year); Google Play (revised app/video rental store) launched; new Chrome browser launched
  • Google+: 170 million users (active?) (point of reference Facebook: 845m active users)
Google earnings
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

The software firm ended the quarter with just over 33,000 employees worldwide.  The company has $49.3B USD of cash on hand (about half of Apple's war-chest).

Google stock, currently hovering around $625 USD, will be offered a split of 2-to-1.  However, the new shares will be non-voting shares, something that may turn off large investors.  Thus liquidity is improved, but control is reduced -- which may give institutional investors mixed reactions.  Indeed, Google's stock was down 3.75 percent today, despite the strong performance.

III. Dodging Those Pesky Taxes

The company also announced that for the first quarter of 2012, it is now paying an effective tax rate of 18 percent [source], above the average (~12 percent) for Fortune500 companies, but about half the supposed tax rate set forth by basic corporate tax law (35 percent of earnings), the rate small-to-midsize business are typically forced to pay. 

Google in recent public comments, defended sourcing its regional head-quarters in low-tax regions like Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Caribbean as a way of masking its corporate earnings.

The company esentially said that it had to dodge taxes as a responsibility to shareholders, commenting:

We have an obligation to our shareholders to set up a tax-efficient structure, and our present structure is compliant with the tax rules in all the countries where we operate.

To its credit, Google was one of the only companies to effective own up to this practice in a public comment.

Google paid an incredible effective tax rate of 2.4 percent in 2010 [source].  

The U.S. has a complex tax code, where top corporations and wealthy individuals typically pay a lower effective income tax than small-to-midsize businesses or the middle-class.  This system is made confusing by the fact that the wealthy interests appear to be taxed more on paper -- among the highest taxes in the world in fact.  The "discounts" are only added at tax time.

Google spent $9M USD in lobbying in 2011 [source].  And its political action committee (PAC) chipped in another $1M USD, largely party-agnostic [source].  Google gave $814,000 USD to U.S. President Barack Obama in his last campaign [source] and $165,000 so far this campaign [source].  Obama was the first presidential candidate since records became available to be heavily funded by Google.

Today U.S. politicians are much like NASCAR drivers in that they spend much time thanking their sponsors.  Those thanks come in the way of tax loopholes, tax holidays, judicial favoritism, and other perks.  A recent University of Kansas School of Business study [PDF] found that $1 given to a federal politician was worth $243 USD of tax breaks, if you contributed over $1M USD.

The cost of these bipartisan concessions come in the form of America's $15T USD national debt and tax barriers that discourage smaller individuals and competitors from rising in affluence, thanks to higher taxation.

IV. The Unknowns

What was not discussed during the earnings call?  Notably, app statistics or Android revenue/profit.  Speculation is high about exactly how profitable or non-profitable Android is.  For now all Google would say was to call the platform a "gamble" and suggest that it is thus far paying off in activations (market share).

Also not discussed was the pending acquisition of top-three Android phonemaker Motorola Mobility.  Approved in the U.S. [press release] and European Union [press release], and approved by voting shareholders, the acquisition is almost ready for primetime.  However, its completion has been stalled by China.  China (also not mentioned in the earnings call) has come to an "understanding" with Google regarding mandatory censorship in its services, however, the world's most populous nation is still at odds with Google for complaining about being hacked.

Google on Motorola
Google's acquisition of Motorola is stalled pending Chinese approval.
[Image Source: TechnoBuffalo]

Many in the government of China have advocated a model in which foreign businesses must increasingly surrender their intellectual property in order to sell to Chinese users (note that  manufacturers not selling to the Chinese market would be exempt -- for now).  While legislation to that end stalled on the grounds of outrage from the U.S., China appears to be still encouraging a black market of IP theft of American firms.

Google, a prominent victim of such attacks and code theft, has spoken out against the company's apparent promotion of the practice.  China's top state-run newspaper responded with a threatening commentary in a top interview, suggesting that Google should either put up with the abuse or get out.

China may be using the Motorola deal as a bargaining chip to try to convince Google that the correct answer is "put up with the abuse".

Source: YouTube

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RE: Bullcr@p
By Iaiken on 4/14/2012 11:30:01 AM , Rating: 3
We have a progressive tax system, the more you make, the more you pay.

Now when you say more, you mean a higher rate or just more in flat out currency?

Now it's important to remember that nobody can really fault Google for making use of the "Dutch Sandwich". When it comes down to it, Google is legally beholden to the shareholders - just as all the major corporations are - to seek out and execute whatever strategies they must to keep as much of their profits as they can from the tax man. Not actually carrying out these strategies while the competition is, would legally be a breach of fiduciary duty to the shareholders on the part of the CEO/CFO.

According to the IRS and tax foundation, this isn't even CLOSE to the truth.

Actually, according to reverse calculation of corporations that turned a profit over $1 million dollars, the 35% corporate tax rate is the myth. The actual corporate tax rate lies somewhere between 13 percent. Further, as you raise the profit amount to filter out smaller companies (less than $1 billion in profits) the effective tax rate rapidly approaches 3%.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that - under the existing system of credits, shelters, deductions, and other preferences - any cuts to the corporate tax rate would not stimulate growth at the top. Analysts at the Harvard school of business figure that the could double the corporate tax rate and the largest corporations (above $1 billion) would still pay only 10%. Meanwhile, small businesses and corporations that can't afford to execute these strategies would be utterly devastated.

So really, why not just throw out the existing corporate tax code in it's entirety and replace it with something that is fair to both large and small players? No loopholes, whatever you report to the exchanges in profit is what you are taxed on. This would let the fed slash rates to something in the area of 15-18%, which would be a boon to smaller players that are currently paying the actual 35%. In Canada, the corporate tax rate fell to 16.5% in 2011 and the numbers now coming in show that the effective tax rate on companies turning a profit was 14.9%. It's a recipe that is already out there and already working, all the US has to do is replicate it.

RE: Bullcr@p
By Solandri on 4/14/12, Rating: 0
RE: Bullcr@p
By Ringold on 4/15/2012 8:51:44 PM , Rating: 2
Think about it further. Higher taxes would reduce the income, and thus value, of the company. Of course shareholders care.

RE: Bullcr@p
By Reclaimer77 on 4/14/2012 4:46:01 PM , Rating: 2
Now when you say more, you mean a higher rate or just more in flat out currency?

Currency. Which is what's really important in my opinion. Percentages are misleading and typically are used by the class war-faring Left to justify tax increases. Like the recent "shocking" headlines about how Romney "only" had a 15% or whatever tax rate. What's left out is the fact that he paid literally millions to the Government. Please lets have a show of hands here of who's paid millions to the Government yearly in taxes.

Now on the flip side I do not believe anyone, regardless of income, should be paying ridiculous percentages like the 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent brackets. Give me a break, that's absurd. That is literally theft in my opinion.

But it's like a giant shell game. While everyone is whipped up by the Washington cronies pitting one class against each other, nobody is stopping to notice that the Government is way too big, spends way too much money, and taxes EVERYONE far too much.

In Canada, the corporate tax rate fell to 16.5% in 2011 and the numbers now coming in show that the effective tax rate on companies turning a profit was 14.9%. It's a recipe that is already out there and already working, all the US has to do is replicate it.

Nice! I like that. The problem is, unfortunately, this would be politically dangerous in the US.

Years ago a man I respect and refer to very much made a horrible mistake. Ronald Reagan virtually eliminated the tax burden for nearly 40% of all Americans. I understand his reasoning at the time, but what that decision ultimately did was to create an ENTIRE constituency of Americans who don't care about tax increases, because they don't pay any, and will support whatever party promises to raise taxes (usually on the "rich").

Democrats have virtually monopolized this constituency, thank god most of these people don't vote, and thus anytime a tax decrease is proposed it becomes a huge controversy and tool of the Left to continue the class warfare attack.

So if the "Bush tax cuts" caused that much of a stir, you can imagine how well received Canada's approach would be here. We're literally committing suicide, but there are just SO many people blind to it.

RE: Bullcr@p
By soulcarver on 4/14/2012 5:55:17 PM , Rating: 1
Percentages are misleading and typically are used by the class war-faring Left to justify tax increases.

While we are at it, let's just toss out mathematics altogether.

That is literally theft in my opinion.

I always liked this line. If taxes are theft, so are suppressed wages via the appropriation of the surplus value of a sold good or service. Although, under both cases you have signed a "social contract" of sorts by choosing to be a part of this society. Is it theft if you knew the prerequisites of this "social contract" and still use the other benefits afforded by staying here? Really, I am just prodding you to get you to possibly think about this in a new way.

I would like to point out a few things about the statement that lowering taxes will lead to a growing economy. Sweden, one of the most dynamic economies post-recession, has higher individual tax rates than the U.S. I would pose this question to you: what micro and macroeconomic factors have led to their market competitiveness? In respective rates - corporate, individual, payroll - Sweden's tax rates are: 26.3%; 28.89%-59.09%; 31.42% (official source dated 01/11: (source: In the U.S. these numbers are: 0-35% (federal), 0-12% (states); 0-35% (federal), 0-10.55% (states); 15.3-2.9% (regressive). Sales taxes are also on average higher in Sweden than in the U.S. But, these numbers alone don't tell the whole story. Effective corporate tax rates are the key to this discussion, not individual tax rates.

It is important to note that the sliding scale of corporate taxes in the U.S. is due in part to income, but these rates can be reduced through loop-holes and write-offs. For example according to Bloomberg, Google was able to reduce its effective tax rate to 2.4% using tax loop-holes (source: Another source from Forbes also displays how corporations are able to reduce their effective tax rates:

While I do agree that the average corporate tax rates could be reduced in the U.S. to bring them in-line with those in Europe, this reduction should be accompanied with the proviso that the so-called "tax loop-holes" be closed. Additionally, corporate tax rates should have little to do with individual tax rates. I believe those in the top income brackets (e.g., owners and large shareholders of corporations) in the U.S. should receive a greater burden of individual taxation, because their individual incomes are derived through a process known as surplus value creation. In other words, these levels of income are derived through businesses from either decreases in labor costs (i.e. through decreases in workers’ wages or through increases in productivity), decreases in material production costs, increases in the price of goods, or increases in sales. As material production costs are set to remain stable or increase in the future, this surplus is most often generated through increased prices, decreased labor costs, or increased sales through the opening of new markets. This can be seen in the U.S. as it becomes progressively more a post-industrial economy. For instance, the U.S. economy has experienced a loss of its relatively high-paying manufacturing job base. Along with that, it has seen its trade imbalance rise. U.S. corporations have become reliant on relatively low-paid service sector jobs domestically, while outsourcing manufacturing to other countries where labor costs are lower (source:

Instead of the wealthy stuffing their own individual pockets with corporate profits, shouldn't they be spreading that money around in the way of higher paying jobs? In the end, that seems like a better solution that will in turn help the wealthy by creating a more stable consumer class which you can rely on to purchase goods and services in the future. Also, if corporate tax rates go down to increase market competitiveness, shouldn't individual tax rates for those who will reap the rewards go up? At the current dismal state of our infrastructure, along with other government services, it is either this or we privatize. And, if we privatize, you will just see your current taxes replaced with "use taxes," "tolls," and "fees." That actually might not work out too well for those in the classes who consume the most.

RE: Bullcr@p
By Reclaimer77 on 4/14/2012 6:15:04 PM , Rating: 2
The income tax was a "temporary measure" that got made permanent. The Federal Government has NO right to a third of what you make. That is an immoral level of taxation. It's theft.

The income tax is the source root of all evil in this country. Without it we couldn't fund this monstrously sized, inefficient, and Unconstitutional Government. We cannot pretend we have "states rights" when we have a centralized federal income tax.

Also, you Lefties will like this one, we couldn't have the "industrial military complex" without the income tax either.

"1913 wasn't a very good year. 1913 gave us the income tax, the 16th amendment and the IRS."

Ron Paul


RE: Bullcr@p
By ritualm on 4/14/2012 7:32:38 PM , Rating: 1
How do you sustain your always-at-war-with-something economy without income taxes? Print money? Gee, that strategy worked really well for Zimbabwe, doesn't it?

RE: Bullcr@p
By MeesterNid on 4/14/2012 8:09:40 PM , Rating: 3

There, clear as red Crayon, you can see where the majority of the US budget is going so we can put this tired liberal bull $#%^ about war spending being taking us to the poor house to rest.

RE: Bullcr@p
By Reclaimer77 on 4/14/2012 8:36:11 PM , Rating: 3
I love how non-military discretionary spending (bs Congressional pork projects/earmarks) is almost on par with Constitutionally mandated Defense spending. We're so upside down it's not even funny, there can be no doubt.

Didn't Obama run in 2008 on "ending earmarks and pork"? Yeeeah, good job buddy. That's the kind of change we were hoping for.

RE: Bullcr@p
By ptmmac on 4/14/2012 11:25:11 PM , Rating: 4
I think the real problem is that it is okay to lie about how much you are paying. The idea that we can have a tax code that says that the rate of taxation is one thing and make it stick for middle class voters and some small corporations, but not make it stick for upper incomes and large corporations is just dishonest. It doesn't matter whether you believe taxes are good or bad. What matters is that the conversation has been hijacked by lying about what is going on. When the code is a lie then we need to scrap it. This is the reason so many people are not worried or willing to talk about taxes. Most people don't pay them. Everybody is so happy that they aren't paying so everything is ok. What is going on now is that the government is financing a credit binge for all Americans. It is economic suicide, but if you don't end the lying you can't solve the problem. Make everyone pay taxes. Make the rates they pay simple and easy enough to calculate on an index card. Git rid of complexity, because that just makes it easy to lie to everybody about what is going on. Make it simple stupid! Otherwise, we can just forget the government and society which we have inherited. It is dead.

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