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Alphabet Earnings: Google Will Have a $1.7 Billion Monkey on Its Back

Danny Vena, The Motley Fool

Last year was a tough one for Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG). The stock couldn't seem to get any momentum and ended the year barely breaking even. But shares have gained 22% so far this year, and the company is trying to build on that momentum. Regulatory headaches, however, keep coming back to haunt the search leader.

Alphabet will be making its case to investors, as the company is scheduled to report the results of its first quarter after the market close on Monday, April 29. Let's recap the company's fourth-quarter performance and look at its most recent regulatory headaches to see if it provides any insight into what investors can expect when Alphabet reports earnings.

Building with the Google logo at night

Image source: Google.

A look back

For the fourth quarter, Alphabet reported revenue of $39.3 billion, up 22% year over year and 23% in constant currency. The company delivered operating income that grew 21% to $8.2 billion, resulting in earnings per share of $12.77, a 12% increase over the prior-year quarter.

Google's "other revenues" segment -- which includes hardware sales, Google Play and cloud computing -- continues to be one of the highlights, generating revenue of $6.49 billion, a 31% year-over-year increase.

Without providing any specifics, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said Google Cloud continues to be "one of the fastest-growing businesses across Alphabet." He also revealed that the cloud provider doubled the number of deals over $1 million, as well as the number of multi-year contracts.

Recent events

On March 20, the European Commission -- the legislative body of the European Union (EU) -- levied a new antitrust fine totaling $1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) against Google. The commission alleges that Google abused its dominant market position to force AdSense customers to sign contracts that forbid them from placing advertising from competing search engines. The company has since removed the offending restrictions from its agreements.

Google said it will be accruing for the entire fine this quarter, in compliance with accounting rules, which will reduce its operating income, net income, and earnings per share by the full amount of the fine. 

This is the third such EU fine in as many years. The body fined Google a record 4.34 billion euros ($5 billion) last year, accusing Google of abusing its dominant market position in mobile. Google was ordered to stop bundling Chrome and search apps in its Android mobile operating system. This came on the heels of a 2.42 billion-euro fine ($2.7 billion at the time) in 2017 for systematically favoring its own shopping service in search results. 

With its $9.4 billion in fines and counting, investors are hoping there's some end in sight.

A look ahead

Alphabet doesn't provide quarterly guidance, but knowing Wall Street's estimates can help gauge its sentiment. Analysts' consensus estimates are calling for revenue of $37.33 billion, a 20% year-over-year increase, resulting in earnings per share of $10.56, down about 21%. The EU fine will probably complicate the matter, but this isn't Alphabet's first rodeo. If history is any guide, the company will show its results both before and after the impact of the fine -- similar to what it did in the wake of last year's record-setting fine.

We'll have many more details when Alphabet reports earnings.

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Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Danny Vena owns shares of Alphabet (A shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares) and Alphabet (C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.