Premature Press Release Makes Google Shares Plunge

Google shares fell sharply after poor third quarter results were accidentally released early, in the middle of the trading day. NASDAQ suspended trading in Google shares.

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Google's high-flying stock hit some turbulence today. Its shares were down as much as 10 percent before trading was temporarily halted. The drop came after the company's quarterly earnings report was released prematurely, a report that showed Google struggling in the third quarter. NPR's Steve Henn reports.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Google wasn't supposed to release its earnings report to investors until after the stock market closed today. But someone somewhere at the company Google pays to print its financial documents clicked send a little too soon, and a draft of Google's earnings report showed up on the Security and Exchange Commission's website right in the middle of the trading day. And Google's numbers did not look good. Profits were down 20 percent. The price Google was able to charge advertisers for every click on an ad last quarter had fallen 15 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

And Motorola Mobility, the cell phone maker Google bought for more than $12 billion earlier this year, was hemorrhaging money. Motorola lost more than half a billion dollars last quarter. In response, Wall Street investors freaked. Within minutes, Google stock had shed 10 percent of its value. Google shareholders lost $19 billion, at least on paper, and trading in the stock was temporarily halted. But Clark Fredricksen, who follows the search business for eMarketer, says, that was most likely an overreaction.

CLARK FREDRICKSEN: Look, Google is in a very strong position in the marketplace.

HENN: In fact, according to its earnings report, the number of paid clicks, the total search ads Google sold increased 33 percent from the same time last year. The total amount of revenue at Google was up 45 percent from a year ago.

FREDRICKSEN: You know, the company's ad revenue alone is expected to account for more than 40 percent of all U.S. digital ad revenues this year.

HENN: Google is the market leader in search ads, display ads and mobile ads. A year ago, that wasn't true.

FREDRICKSEN: That's correct. This year, for the first time, Google is expected to surpass Facebook in U.S. display advertising revenues.

HENN: And Google is dominating mobile ads. It sells more than half of all mobile ads out there. But because consumers are less likely to make big purchases on a mobile phone, that's pushing the price of these ads down. Fredricksen believes as consumers get more accustomed to shopping with their phones that will change. Mobile ads, he says, could quickly become more valuable. And he believes Google is well-positioned to profit. Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley.

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