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Google, Wall Street Have a Failure to Communicate. So Earnings Should Be Fun Today!


If your job description includes “analyzing Google’s quarterly earnings results in real time,” you’re going to have a challenging afternoon today. How do you figure out if Google’s Q4 beat the Street, when the Street can’t figure out what Q4 is supposed to look like?

To spell that out: Google’s numbers, which used to be pretty easy to read, have gotten a lot more complicated in the last few quarters because of its Motorola acquisition, which is essentially forcing analysts to make sense of two different companies in the same report.

And today’s numbers will be even more complicated, because Google is selling off part of Motorola, and doesn’t plan on counting that part of the company in its results, even though they’ll still be there for accounting purposes.

Got all that? Google doesn’t think you do, which is why it sent out a super-rare memo to analysts last week, suggesting that “people who follow our company may not be fully aware” of what today’s numbers would look like.

Looks like some of that confusion still remains. So the quickest shortcut for the afternoon will probably be to concentrate on Q4′s “core Google” numbers — the ones that don’t include Motorola. No one seems to have a formal census of those estimates, but here’s where J.P. Morgan’s Doug Anmuth pins his:

Net revenue: $9.7B (+10.8 percent Q/Q, 19.3 percent Y/Y)
Paid click growth: Up 28.5 percent
Cost per click growth: Down 9 percent
Operating income: $3.8B (+39.1 percent margin)

As always, it would be great to see Google liven up its reliably dull calls with real color and detail about the business — for instance, we’d love to hear them talk candidly about the effects of their antitrust win (at least in the U.S.) this month. And, as always, we don’t expect to hear them say squat.

But, assuming that the release doesn’t come out early today, my colleague Liz Gannes will be on hand at 4 pm ET to start covering the news. Good luck, Liz!