Alphabet, the new holding company for Google, introduced its first share buyback and beat Wall Street's profit forecast on Thursday, helped by solid progress in mobile and video advertising, sending the stock to its highest-ever level in after-hours trading.
Revenue and profit well above analysts’ average forecasts, along with the unexpected buyback, was welcomed by Wall Street, which is now betting on further growth.
The results come at a pivotal time for the company as it navigates the transition from desktop to mobile, where ads are generally less profitable, while facing growing competition from rivals like Facebook.
At the same time, it is moving into a new corporate structure that will put more visibility on parts of Alphabet such as its secretive research arm, Google X. Next quarter will be the first in which it reports results under that structure.
Company executives touted strength in mobile search for the strong results. "Search traffic on mobile phones have now surpassed desktop traffic worldwide," said Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google.
Shares of Alphabet rose almost 9 per cent in after-hours trading to $741, easily a record. At that level, the company's market value would be around $500 billion, making it the second-most valuable company in the S&P 500 after Apple.
On a strong day for technology companies, Amazon. com and Microsoft shares also rose sharply after hours, following better-than-expected results.
Analysts generally welcomed Alphabet’s performance.
Investors have been pressing the company to return more of its $72 billion cash pile, but the announcement that Alphabet would buy back up to $5.09 billion of its Class C shares came as a surprise.
Mature technology companies such as Apple and Microsoft have come under intense pressure in recent years to give back more cash to investors.
Third-quarter revenue rose 13 per cent to $18.68 billion, above the $18.53 billion that Wall Street expected, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Excluding one-time items, the company earned $7.35 per share, up 17.6 per cent from the year before. That was ahead of analysts’ average estimate of $7.21 per share.
Expenses rose 9.1 per cent to $13.97 billion but were 74.7 per cent of total revenue, compared to 77.4 per cent in the same quarter last year, reflecting new chief finance officer Ruth Porat’s tight rein on spending.
"It's strong top and bottom line results," said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis. "It's great to see not only expense control - which is the new CFO - but also upside on the top line."
The company said the number of paid clicks, in which advertisers pay only if a user clicks on the ad, rose 23 per cent, compared to an 18 per cent increase in the previous quarter.
Cost-per-click, or the average price of online ads, fell 11 per cent in the quarter. Under the Alphabet structure, search, advertising, maps, YouTube and Android will remain part of Google.
Alphabet's businesses will include connected home products maker Nest, venture capital arm Google Ventures, Google X, the company's secretive research arm, and Google Capital, which invests in larger tech companies.