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Google hit by falling advertising prices


Google's moneymaking machine misfired badly in the fourth quarter as its advertising prices fell during the holiday marketing season.

The results announced yesterday fell way below the lofty expectations of stock market analysts, causiong Google's shares to plunge more than 9% after the numbers were released.

Google earned $2.7bn (£1.8bn) or $8.22 (£5.35) per share, during the October to December - a 6% increase from $2.5bn (£1.6bn), or $7.81 (£5.08) per share, on the same time in 2010.

If not for certain items, Google says it would have earned $9.50 (£6.18) per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected $10.51 (£6.84) per share.

Revenue climbed 25% from the previous year to nearly $10.6bn (£6.9bn).

After subtracting ad commissions, Google's revenue totalled $8.1bn (£5.3bn). That was about $300m (£195m) below the average analyst forecast.

The disappointing performance stemmed from a surprising downturn in the prices that the internet search leader collects for each click. The average price declined 8% from the same time in 2010.

The erosion reversed what had been happening earlier in the year. The year-on-year increases in Google's price per ad click had ranged from 5% to 12% increase in the first three quarters of 2010.

The fourth quarter marked the first time Google's revenue surpassed $10bn (£6.5bn) for any three-month period in the company's 13-year history.

Reaching that milestone was not enough to impress investors. Google shares shed $58.56 (£38.10) to $581.01 (£378.03) in yesterday's extended trading.