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Google parent Alphabet has reported a slowdown in first-quarter revenue growth, as the Covid-19 pandemic led to a drop in advertising on the search engine from March. Revenues rose 13 percent year-on-year to USD 41.2 billion, down from 17 percent annual growth a year earlier and in Q4.
The US giant exceeded dim earnings expectations, showing higher revenue and profits despite a coronavirus-induced slowdown in its core advertising operations. Alphabet shares leapt more than eight percent in after-hours trades following release of earnings figures that eased fears the pandemic would stall the internet firm's income engine.
Alphabet reported a profit of $6.8 billion in the first three months of the year, up nearly three percent from last year, on revenue that grew 13 percent to $41 billion. The Silicon Valley giant, the first of the big technology firms to report quarterly results, offered a mixed picture: a strong start to the year followed by an abrupt slowdown in advertising in March and some tentative signs the worst may be over.
Chief financial officer Ruth Porat pointed to "very early signs of recovery in commercial search behavior by users" but added that "it is not clear how durable or monetizable this behavior will be."
Still, the report showed one of the major tech firms weathering the crisis and seeing some hopeful signs in advertising, which represents the lion's share of Alphabet revenue and is closely tied to economic conditions.
"In a quarter of bad news, this was really good news," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group, who predicted improvement in the digital ad market in May and June.
Baird analyst Colin Sebastian expected the current quarter to be "the bottom" of an online advertising trough at Alphabet, while noting growth in its YouTube and cloud computing revenues.
"This is probably exactly what technology needed at a time when many suspected FANG/Tech could be rolling over," Mark Newton of Newton Advisors said in a tweet, referring to the acronym for the big tech firms Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google.
Alphabet executives remained cautious in their outlook, noting that the company is cutting back on hiring, marketing, office expansion and other expenses while continuing to invest in promising long-term trends like companies moving more aggressively to services hosted in the internet cloud.
"It is now clear that once the emergency has passed, the world will not look the same," Alphabet-Google chief Sundar Pichai said during an earnings call.
"Some social norms will change, and many businesses are speaking to us looking to reinvent their operations."
Google services, data centers, and software capabilities are positioned to help with trends in online education, healthcare, entertainment, and shopping likely to continue after the pandemic has ended, according to Pichai.
Overall ad revenues for Google rose 10 percent for the quarter despite the pandemic's worsening in March.
YouTube's ad revenue was up about a third to $4 billion as people turned to online entertainment while they hunkered down at home to avoid the coronavirus.
The pandemic has disrupted operations at tech powerhouses known themselves for disrupting traditional business models.
Fewer people are buying new smartphones; more people are online and using social platforms but online advertising is slumping; cloud computing needs are growing; and more consumers are relying on delivery of essential goods from Amazon.
Along with other tech firms, Google has been highlighting its role in helping consumers and authorities in the battle against COVID-19.
Pichai said that "we've marshaled our resources" to assist people during the crisis.
"Given the depth of the challenges so many are facing, it's a huge privilege to be able to help at this time," he said.
Google has teamed up with longtime rival Apple to develop technology for coronavirus smartphone "contact tracing" by allowing devices from the two platforms to communicate and indicate when people have crossed paths with an infected person.
YouTube said it began adding fact-check panels to search results in the US for videos on hot-topic claims shown to be bogus.
The report showed revenue rose 26 percent to $170 million for Alphabet's "other bets" which include the Waymo self-driving car project, Wing drone delivery and Verily life sciences. But these "moonshot" projects produced a collective operating loss of $1.1 billion.
Orange proceeded to land Google’s transatlantic Dunant cable in Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez, in the Vendée region of France, first and terrestrial stage of the laying of this cable.
This new 6,600 km long submarine cable linking the United States to France, posed by the company SubCom and scheduled to come into service before the end of 2020, is the result of a project combining Orange and Google. The Europe-United States axis is one of the most important submarine routes in the world with a need for connectivity that doubles every second year. Dunant will help to meet the explosion in Internet usage and guarantee ever more efficient connections for Orange and Google customers.
As the “Landing Party” and owner of the French part of the cable, Orange has completely refurbished the historic station in Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez, which was no longer in use, to house the terminal equipment for the Dunant system. This area is a strategic location, close to the main connectivity hubs on this side of the Atlantic. From this landing station, Orange is deploying terrestrial optical fibers in France between Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez and Paris to route its traffic on the Dunant cable to the capital's major data centers and will also provide service to the rest of Europe and major international data centers.
With this deployment, Orange will benefit from two pairs of optical fibers with a capacity of up to 30Tbp/s each, enough to transfer a 1GB video in 30 microseconds. Orange will thus be able to meet the massive growth in demand for data and content exchanged between Europe and the United States for several years to come.
Dunant will be the first submarine cable to connect the United States to France in more than 15 years and will be designed to combine the most advanced technologies from the world's various equipment suppliers. The cable will therefore be able to keep pace with innovation in optical transmission technologies and maintain its performance at the highest level for many years to come.
As a major investor in more than 40 submarine cables, Orange is committed to developing the quality of service of its global network. This new transatlantic project is one of the Group's many operations aimed at providing high-quality services to support its customers in their various uses.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reported its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results. The company’s revenue grew from $39.3 billion in 2018 to $46.1 billion in 2019. The firm’s net income also expanded from $8.9 billion to $10.7 billion over the same time frame.
However, the figures, when compared to expectation, were mixed. Alphabet missed revenue expectations in the fourth quarter despite stellar growth at YouTube and in the cloud, earnings figures showed.
Detailing its cloud computing and YouTube revenues for the first time, Alphabet reported that profits rose 19 percent from a year ago in the quarter to nearly $10.7 billion as revenues increased 17 percent to $46 billion.
The company said its cloud computing services took in $2.6 billion in revenue during the last three-month period, up more than 50 percent and nearly $9 billion for the year.
Alphabet and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai touted YouTube as a revenue star at the company, with ad revenue reaching $15 billion last year in an increase of about 36 percent from 2018. YouTube music and television premium services now have more than 20 million paid subscribers, according to Pichai.
Despite assurances by executives that Alphabet sees plenty of money-making potential ahead and is investing to capitalize on long-term trends, Alphabet shares slipped more than four percent in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings figures.
The California tech giant, which dominates online search and makes the Android mobile operating system, has been working to reduce its dependence on the digital advertising which delivers most of its cash.
"Our investments in deep computer science, including artificial intelligence, ambient computing and cloud computing, provide a strong base for continued growth and new opportunities across Alphabet," said Pichai.
Chief financial officer Ruth Porat said Alphabet will ramp-up hiring this year. Much of that will be engineering talent for its cloud division which competes with cloud market-leaders Amazon and Microsoft.
"We are leaning into investing for long-term growth," Porat said. "That has been a key principle here and continues to be," she added.
Google advertising took in the majority of revenue at $38 billion in the quarter, and more than 80 percent of its annual revenues of $162 billion. Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Baird, said the earnings report showed "a deceleration" in growth for Google, which may have been due to the impact of fewer holiday shopping days.
Analyst Nicole Perrin at eMarketer said the results highlight the significance of YouTube, the popular video service for which Alphabet had not up to now disclosed financial data.
"This is something investors have been looking for, but the information should also give advertisers valuable information about the importance of YouTube as a digital ad vehicle," Perrin said.
"YouTube is growing strongly according to this report, and revenues are above where eMarketer had thought they were."
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have announced they are stepping down from top roles at the online giant's parent company, Alphabet.
Huawei's upcoming flagship Mate 30 smartphone will launch next month without key Google apps, creating a challenge for the Chinese tech giant hit by US sanctions.
A French consumer rights group said that it has launched a class action lawsuit against US tech giant Google for violating the EU's strict data privacy laws.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) called for new regulations on Facebook, Google and other tech behemoths which could have far-reaching ramifications on their money-making procedures and their ability to choose which content consumers would consume.
The country’s competition watchdog devised some recommendations which, if confirmed, would be among the most restrictive towards tech giants. These recommendations were created in an effort to limit the power of these tech giants due to global concerns of their influence and various other issues such as anti-trust, privacy abuse and the role they play in spreading discriminatory content and misinforming the public.
The ACCC plans to issue its final report by the end of June, following its 18-month inquiry into the issue. This report is expected to comprise of various proposals pertaining to controls that will be imposed on tech giants which handle a large quantity of personal data to use for marketing purposes such as the use of algorithms to coordinate which advertisements to display to customers, which tailored search results will appear and other tailored content.
In the lengthy preliminary report which was issued in December last year, the ACCC raised concerns about the market power of tech companies like Facebook and Google and how their operations are characterized by a “lack of transparency”, especially with regards to the use of our data.
The report, which was initiated by the conservative government, read,: “We are at a critical point in considering the impact of digital platforms on society.” It also shed some light on the impact the tech giants had on Australia’s new industry.
In fact, it was found that since 2014, two tech titans were receiving a huge fraction of the revenues generated from digital advertising which resulted in the number of newspapers and online journalists falling by over 20 per cent.
“While the ACCC recognizes their significant benefits to consumers and business, there are important questions to be asked about the role the global digital platforms play in the supply of news and journalism in Australia,” read the report.
The competition watchdog stated that it wanted to make sure the big firms did not “favor their own business interests, through their marketing power and presence across multiple markets”.
“There are also issues with the role of digital platforms in determining what news and information is accessed by Australians, how this information is provided, and its range and reliability.”
Rod Sims, ACCC chairman, stated that regulatory authorities In the UK, Europe and the U.S. were monitoring the outcome of their inquiry very closely as they are all still in the process of determining their policies regarding the issue.
Many are of the belief that the ACCC’s recommendations are impractical and a little radical.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has already begun to take action against the growing influence of Big Tech. This includes enabling criminal penalties for social media execs which allow the spread of violent or hateful content on their platforms.
Head of DIGI, the lobbying group formed by various tech behemoths to deal with the regulator, Sunit Bose, said, “We obviously need really clear rules for the internet that protect privacy, safety, the economic and social benefits of technology while also protecting competition and innovations.”
She also argued that the Australian regulator’s recommendations would hurt Big Tech, as well as start-ups and smaller companies that lack the resources to deal with the new regulations.
“the prospect of having to disclose such sensitive information will serve as a deterrent to global digital companies and start-ups initiating or expanding their operation in Australia,” she said.
US tech giant Google has appealed an EU fine of 1.49 billion euros ($1.69 billion) for unfair practices through misuse of its dominant position, a source close to the case said.
Chinese telecom giant Huawei says it could roll out its own operating system for smartphones and laptops in China by the autumn after the United States blacklisted the company. The international version of the system could be ready in the first or second quarter of 2020, said Richard Yu, the head of Huawei's consumer business.
On Saturday, the Australian government pledged to introduce new laws on social media executives in light of the latest terrorist attack in New Zealand.
The new law would be imposed on social media executives of big tech companies which could lead up to a three-year prison sentence if they fail to remove extremist material from their platforms.
This new legislation is to be discussed in parliament next week.
Facebook has said that it removed around 1.5 million videos which comprised of the livestreamed massacre which took play on March 15 in Christchurch mosque in New Zealand. It was a 17-minute video which was filmed by the terrorist himself going on a rampage and killing 50 innocent people. This video was almost immediately available online and Facebook quickly took the video down several hours after the attack.
“Big social media companies have a responsibility to take evry possible action to ensure their technology products are not exploited by murderous terrorists,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Morrison met with several tech companies on Tuesday some of which included Facebook, Twitter and Google. At the meeting, Australia stated that it would advise other G20 countries to do the same and hold social media firms accountable.
At the meeting, Facebook said that it was “committed to working with leaders and communities” in order to “help counter hate speech and the threat of terrorism.” However, the tech company refused to give any further comments.
Attorney General Christian Porter said that the new legislation would make it a criminal offence if social media platforms fail to discard “abhorrent violent material” such as murder, rape and terror attacks.
The fines for such an offence are expected to be worth billions of dollars.
Porter stated, “Mainstream media hat broadcast such material would be putting their licence at risk and there is no reason why social media platforms should be treated any differently.”
Nigel Phair, a cybersecurity expert, hinted that this new law could not possibly imprison social media executives. He stated that jail was reserved for “serious criminal matters” and that executives based in Australia were not company “decision makers”.
“Jails is for violent offenders, not marketing representatives in Australia of an American social media company.”
He said that the social media firms could have done more than what they pledged to do on Tuesday. He added, “They didn’t read the tea leaves back then, it’ll be different how they read the tea leaves now.”