Earnings Release Blunder Forces Suspension of Google Shares

Earnings Release Blunder Forces Suspension of Google Shares

Google shares were suspended for more than two hours on Thursday after an erroneous early release of its disappointing third quarter results shocked the market and sent the Internet giant’s stock price tumbling.

Ahead of schedule

The figures were made public in a regulatory filing, hours ahead of their scheduled publication, which Google called a ‘draft’ released by a printer ‘without authorization’. The final version came a few hours later, with the same numbers but with a comment from Chief Executive Larry Page in place of a line on the draft which said, ‘Pending Lary quote’.

“We had a strong quarter,’’ Mr. Page said in the statement. But the numbers told a slightly different story. Net profit was reported at $2.18 billion, down 20 per cent from $2.73 billion in the same period a year ago.

Google stock slid 8 per cent to end at $695, taking the company’s market value back down below that of Microsoft, which it overtook earlier this month as the number two player in the tech sector behind Apple. In a conference call, Mr. Page later apologised for the mistake. “I am sorry for the scramble earlier today. As our printers have said, they hit send on the release just a bit early,’’ he said.

Google said revenue, including sales from its newly acquired Motorola Mobility unit, amounted to $14.1 billion. Google’s own ad and other revenue rose 19 per cent from a year ago to $11.53 billion. Google’s earnings per share adjusted for special items amounted to $9.03, far below Wall Street expectations of $10.65 per share. Analysts were largely unfazed by the weak results.

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