Google Q4 earnings nearly triple

Google's fourth-quarter profit nearly tripled as the online search engine leader once again sprinted past analyst expectations, but the breathtaking growth wasn't enough to satisfy investors, an Associated Press report said.

The report said Google's high-flying stock price dipped after it earned $1.03 billion during the final three months of 2006. That compared with net income of $372.2 million at the same time in 2005.

The Associated Press report said if not for expenses for employee stock compensation and gains from tax benefits, Google said it would have earned $3.18 per share.

That figure easily exceeded the average analyst estimate of $2.92 per share among analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

'To be growing this fast at this stage is phenomenal,' Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, was quoted as saying.

Wall Street's tepid reaction to the fourth-quarter performance illustrates the pressures facing Google as it tries to maintain enough moneymaking momentum to keep shareholders happy while investing heavily in new employees and data centers to support its ambitious plans for the future, the report said.

To some extent, Google has already spoiled investors by topping analyst expectations in all but one of its 10 quarters as a publicly held company, the report added.

During that stretch, Google has earned $4.8 billion on $18.6 billion in sales, translating into a $26 profit on every $100.