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 (U.S.), 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 totalled $3.2-billion, a 67 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent, in extended trading.