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1/21/2010
07:26 PM
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Google Returns To Double Digit Growth

The company's Q4 revenue comes in strong, but shares slip nonetheless.

Google on Thursday revealed healthy fourth quarter earnings, surpassing many analysts' expectations but not enough erase all doubts.

The company reported revenue of $6.67 billion for the last quarter of 2009, a 17% increase over the same period in 2008. Less the amount paid to partners, the company's sales reached $4.95 billion. A Bloomberg survey of analysts estimated $4.91 billion.

The company returned to double digit growth, which eluded it in 2009. Nonetheless, the company's stock was down almost 5% in after-hours trading, reflecting perhaps unrealistic expectations or concerns about Google's future in China.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt characterized the company's year as extraordinary given the state of the global economy.

"Our performance in 2009 underscored the strength of our management team, the resilience of our business model and the pace of innovation within our product and engineering teams, which continued unabated throughout the downturn," he said in a statement. "As we enter 2010, we remain hugely optimistic about the Internet and are continuing to invest heavily in technological innovation for the benefit not only of our users and customers, but also the wider Web."

In keeping with his comments during the previous quarter's conference call for investors, Schmidt in a conference call on Thursday said that the recently accelerated pace of acquisitions -- at a rate of about one per month -- could be expected to continue.

Schmidt allayed fears that the company's rejection of censorship in China would force it to abandon the Chinese market.

The company last week said that it planned to cease censoring search results on Google.cn, a practice required by China's Communist government, after discovering that a cyber attack from China had targeted the e-mail accounts of human rights activists and had resulted in the loss of Google intellectual property.

"We've made a strong statement that we wish to remain in China," he said. "We like the Chinese people and our Chinese employees. We like the business opportunities there, and we'd like to do that on somewhat different terms than we have, but we remain quite committed to being there."

In response to Google's announcement, Chinese officials said they welcome companies that follow the Chinese law.

Schmidt also hinted at warmer relations with Apple and possible future cooperation. He noted that as a former board member, he had a special place in his heart for the company. It remains to be seen whether Apple feels the same way in the face of Google's growing Android mobile business and its plan to enter the e-book market.

Schmidt said that Google's enterprise business is healthy and growing and that display advertising growth will be huge.

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