Will Google Miss Earnings Estimates For The Second Straight Quarter?

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Google reports earnings for the first quarter of 2012 this afternoon after market close, and investors will be watching closely to see if the company hits expectations.We’ll post the numbers as soon as we get them.

Google missed last quarter, and blamed a weakening U.S. economy and weak dollar, as well as some new ad formats.

This quarter, Wall Street expects non-GAAP EPS of $9.65 (up 19% from last year) on net revenue of $8.15 billion (up 24%).

We’ll also be looking for Google to share some real numbers on Google+ engagement. Yesterday, Google+ head Vic Gundotra said that more than 170 million people had “upgraded” to Google+, but those numbers include all logged-in visitors across all Google sites that are tied in with Google+, including YouTube and Gmail.

If Google seriously wants to claim that Google+ is a success, it should tell the world how many people are actually DOING STUFF on the Google+ site — sharing news updates and photos, participating in Hangouts, and so on.

Mark Mahaney and the other analysts at Citi are slightly more bullish than the rest of the Street, expecting non-GAAP EPS of $9.63 on net revenue of $8.16 billion.

Citi notes that Google’s market share is stable, but expects cost-per-click to be down from last year, as a greater percentage of searches are coming from smartphones and tablets, where prices are lower. (CPC was down 8% last quarter, compared with the previous year.) Citi also notes that Google’s Q1 usually sees higher expenses, as year-end bonuses are counted.

The Citi analysts also say that Google’s purchase of Motorola, which should close soon, is “highly risky.” We agree, but it probably won’t have any effect on today’s earnings.

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