What to Expect When Alphabet Reports Monday

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Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) is set to report fourth-quarter and full-year results after the closing bell Monday. But the numbers, while important, may not be as big a deal as mounting efforts to place new restrictions on the company’s data collection and privacy practices.

Alphabet’s Google search engine is the digital world’s most lucrative advertising business, and it was slapped with a $57 million fine last month by French authorities. And just last week, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) revoked Google’s and Facebook Inc.’s (NASDAQ: FB) enterprise developer certificates because both firms were misusing the program to collect private data from users.

Google’s ad revenues in 2017 totaled $35 billion and are forecast at around $40 billion for 2018, not including YouTube revenues. Including Facebook’s Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, Facebook’s ad revenues jumped to $55 billion last year. Together the two giants account for about 57% of all digital ad spending.

So what’s in store for Google’s results? Alphabet is expected to report its most recent quarterly results Monday afternoon. The consensus analyst estimates call for $10.86 in earnings per share (EPS) and fourth-quarter revenue of $38.98 billion. For the full year, analysts are looking for EPS of $41.81 and revenues of $136.49 billion, the vast majority of which is ad revenue from Google search and YouTube.

Investors may see, for the first time, YouTube ad revenues broken out separately. Following some persistent problems with brand safety issues related to the service’s pushing ads from groups promoting white nationalism, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda, YouTube may have put the issue to rest. Ad revenue on the video platform rose 11% year over year in the third quarter, and just over half of advertisers have renewed their spending on YouTube. The three largest advertisers, according to Ad Exchanger, were Geico, Samsung and Disney, which together accounted for 15% of all advertising last year.

Ad revenue growth, as always, will be paramount to investors, while the company’s “Other Bets” segment is expected to rise by more than a third. Traffic acquisition costs are expected to remain flat, and sales of the Google Home smart speaker should improve.

Early Monday, Alphabet stock traded up about 0.9% to $1,128.52, in a 52-week range of $977.66 to $1,291.44. The consensus 12-month price target is $1,351.27.

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