Alphabet Q1 earnings top estimates amid advertising sales resurgence

Emily McCormick
·Reporter
·3 min read

Alphabet (GOOGL), the parent company of Google, reported first-quarter results that easily exceeded estimates, with the tech giant's results getting a boost from a pick-up in its advertising business amid the vaccine-led recovery. Shares climbed more than 4.5% in late trading following the report. 

Here were the main metrics from Alphabet's results, compared to consensus data compiled by Bloomberg:

  • Q1 Revenue, excluding traffic acquisitions costs: $45.6 billion vs. $42.6 billion expected and $33.71 billion year-over-year

  • Q1 GAAP earnings per share: $26.29 vs. $15.64 expected and $10.79 year-over-year 

Of all of the Big Tech "FAANG" stocks, Alphabet's shares posted the least impressive gain during 2020, despite the broader trend toward tech outperformance last year. The company's results have been viewed as closely tied to the pace of the post-pandemic economic reopening. Alphabet's core advertising revenue through search and YouTube is exposed to marketers in travel and other high-contact industries, as well as small businesses deeply impacted by the pandemic. 

This exposure served the company well in the first quarter, with a pick-up in ad sales helping fuel Alphabet's overall 35% jump in top-line results, excluding traffic acquisition costs of $9.7 billion. Google advertising revenues surged 32% to $44.6 billion, continuing to comprise the vast majority of overall revenues for the company. YouTube ad sales rose by a greater-than-expected 49% to more than $6 billion.

"Total revenues of $55.3 billion in the first quarter reflect elevated consumer activity online and broad based growth in advertiser revenue," Alphabet Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said in a press statement, referring to the company's total revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs. "We’re very pleased with the ongoing momentum in Google Cloud, with revenues of $4.0 billion in the quarter reflecting strength and opportunity in both GCP [Google Cloud Platform] and Workspace." 

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Outside of advertising, other closely watched areas of Alphabet's business grew strongly in the first three months of the year. Google Cloud topped $4 billion in quarterly sales for the first time, with revenue in this unit growing nearly 46% over last year. While still a smaller cloud computing platform than those of competitors like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, the company's platform has maintained an impressive run of year-over-year growth topping 40%, continuing to gain market share in the cloud computing space. However, the unit also continued to lose money, with operating losses coming out to $974 million, but narrowing over the prior year. 

"In the FAANG group Amazon is the only competitor against Alphabet on more than one front and whilst Amazon has a large cloud service in AWS, Google’s ad business dwarfs its rival," Tom Johnson, chief transformation officer at marketing agency WPP Mindshare, said in an email. "As brands accelerate out of the pandemic, Alphabet’s combined offering in the Platform Age is likely to become even more attractive as more businesses move to direct to consumer or hybrid business models leveraging Alphabet’s advertising and cloud services."

Alphabet's stock underperformance against Big Tech peers last year has also reversed for 2021 to-date. Shares have risen 31% through Tuesday's close, far outperforming the S&P 500's 11.5% gain over that time period.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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