Google Q4 earnings nearly triple

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Inc.'s fourth-quarter profit nearly tripled amid another burst of breathtaking growth that enabled the online search leader to sprint past analyst expectations -- a habit that has helped propel its stock price above $500.

The Mountain View-based company said Wednesday that it earned $1.03 billion, or $3.29 per share, during the final three months of 2006. That compared with net income of $372.2 million, or $1.22 per share, at the same time in 2005.

If not for expenses for employee stock compensation and gains from tax benefits, Google said it would have earned $3.18 per share. That figure easily exceeded the average analyst estimate of $2.92 per share among analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Google has topped analyst expectations in all but one of its 10 quarters as a publicly held company.

Revenue for the period totaled $3.2 billion, a 67% increase from $1.92 billion in the prior year.

After subtracting commissions paid to its advertising partners, Google's fourth-quarter revenue fell to $2.23 billion. That also exceeded the average analyst estimate of $2.19 billion and represented a 20% increase from the third quarter.

The sequential change in Google's quarterly revenue is closely watched by investors.

Despite the robust growth, investors appeared to be expecting more. Google shares rose $7.18 to close at $501.50 on the Nasdaq Stock Market, then dropped $18.30, or 3.7%, in extended trading.



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