Yahoo’s fourth-quarter earnings surpassed analysts’ projections thanks to higher ad prices and increased earnings from its international investments.
Yahoo reported non-GAAP earnings of $272.27 million or 32 cents per share, on sales of $1.35 billion.
The results surpassed analysts’ expectations of 28 cents per share, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters.
Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) revenue was $1.346 million for the fourth quarter of 2012, a two percent increase from the fourth quarter the previous year. Revenue, excluding traffic acquisition costs, was $1.221 million for the fourth quarter, a four percent increase compared to the same period in 2011.
For the full year of 2012, GAAP net earnings included a net gain of $2.755 million due to the sale of Alibaba shares. Non-GAAP net earnings for the full year of 2012 was $1.407 million, a 35 percent increase from 2011.
This is the first full quarter CEO Marissa Mayer has had the reins of the floundering search engine firm. And investors are obviously happy with her progress — Yahoo shares rose in after-hours trading following the earnings report.
“I’m proud of Yahoo!’s 2012 and fourth quarter results. In 2012,Yahoo! exhibited revenue growth for the first time in four years, with revenue up two percent year-over-year,” Mayer said in a statement. “During the quarter we made progress by growing our executive team, signing key partnerships including those with NBC Sports and CBS Television, and launching terrific mobile experiences for Yahoo Mail and Flickr. At the same time, we achieved tremendous internal transformation in the culture, energy and execution of the company.”
Yahoo’s new CEO has charmed investors with her plans to bring the floundering search engine into the future. Despite her warnings that change won’t happen over night, Mayer, of Google fame, seems to have won Wall Street’s confidence.
Mayer, who took over as CEO last July, has said she will focus on devising a comprehensive mobile strategy for the search engine. She is also determined to work her magic on Yahoo by focusing on users’ “daily habits” such as e-mail, the home page and Internet search as well as mobile devices.
Small acquisitions to acquire talented staff members is also a part of Mayer’s plan to bolster Yahoo’s mobile and social offerings.
Yahoo, in recent months, acquired OnTheAir, a small startup specializing in broadcasting video chats or interviews to online audiences and earlier this month snapped up Snip.it, a social platform for collecting, organizing and sharing articles, videos and images on the Web.
The following is an in-depth breakdown of Yahoo’s fourth quarter results:
Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2012 Financial Highlights
• GAAP display revenue was $591 million for the fourth quarter of 2012, a three percent decrease compared to $612 million for the fourth quarter of 2011. GAAP display revenue was $2,143 million for the full year of 2012, a 1 percent decrease compared to $2,160 million for the prior year.
• Display revenue ex-TAC was $520 million for the fourth quarter of 2012, a five percent decrease compared to $546 million for the fourth quarter of 2011. Display revenue ex-TAC was $1,899 million for the full year of 2012, a two percent decrease compared to $1,932 million for the prior year.
• The number of ads sold on core Yahoo! Properties decreased approximately 10 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011 and increased approximately 3 percent compared to the third quarter of 2012.
• Price-per-ad on core Yahoo! Properties increased approximately seven percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011 and increased approximately 15 percent compared to the third quarter of 2012.
• GAAP search revenue was $482 million for the fourth quarter of 2012, a four percent increase compared to $465 million for the fourth quarter of 2011. GAAP search revenue was $1,886 million for the full year of 2012, a two percent increase compared to $1,853 million for the prior year.
• Search revenue ex-TAC was $427 million for the fourth quarter of 2012, a 14 percent increase compared to $376 million for the fourth quarter of 2011. Search revenue ex-TAC was $1,611 million for the full year of 2012, a nine percent increase compared to $1,478 million for the prior year.
• Paid clicks, or the number of clicks on sponsored listings on Yahoo! Properties and Affiliate sites, increased approximately 11 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011 and increased approximately eight percent compared to the third quarter of 2012.
• Price-per-click increased approximately one percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011 and decreased approximately two percent compared to the third quarter of 2012.
• Cash, cash equivalents, and investments in marketable debt securities were $6 billion at Dec. 31, 2012 compared to $2.5 billion at Dec. 31, 2011, an increase of $3.5 billion.
• During the fourth quarter of 2012, Yahoo! repurchased 80 million shares for $1.5 billion. During the year ended Dec. 31, 2012, Yahoo! repurchased 126 million shares for $2.2 billion.
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Google has your back when it comes to privacy, says a company official.
Google senior vice-president and chief legal officer David Drummond took to the company blog Jan. 28 to reassure its users the company is not cavalier when it comes to releasing user information to authorities (courts and government agencies).
Google’s recently released Transparency Report revealed government requests for user data has continued to rise globally and, once again, the U.S. is leading the charge.
In the July to December period of 2012, Google received 8,438 requests for information from the U.S., a six percent increase from the first half of 2012. Google complied with 88 percent of requests from authorities made by subpoena or search warrant.
“It’s important for law enforcement agencies to pursue illegal activity and keep the public safe,” Drummond said. “We’re a law-abiding company, and we don’t want our services to be used in harmful ways. But it’s just as important that laws protect you against overly broad requests for your personal information.”
To strike a balance, Google employs three initiatives to protect user privacy and security, he said.
1. Backing Law Updates
Google is actively advocating laws such as the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act be updated so e-mail and online documents receive the same protection under the law as personal documents kept in a home filing cabinet or safe.
“We’ll continue this effort strongly in 2013 through our membership in the Digital Due Process coalition and other initiatives,” Drummond said.
2. Request Scrutiny
When a government agency requests a user’s personal information the Google team carefully examines the request to ensure it satisfies the law and its own policies. Google said for requests to be considered, generally, they must be made in writing, signed by an authorized official of the requesting agency and issued under an appropriate law.
Drummond said if a request is too broad, Google frequently refuses to provide the information or seeks to narrow the request. The company also notifies users about legal demands “when appropriate so they can contact the entity requesting it or consult a lawyer,” Drummond said. “Sometimes we can’t, either because we’re legally prohibited (in which case we sometimes seek to lift gag orders or unseal search warrants) or we don’t have their verified contact information.”
Google also requires government agencies conducting criminal investigations to obtain a search warrant before releasing user’s search query information and private content stored in a Google account such as Gmail messages, documents, photos and YouTube videos.
“We believe a warrant is required by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and overrides conflicting provisions in ECPA,” Drummond said.
3. Keeping Users Informed
Google releases bi-annual Transparency Reports to try to keep its users informed about the process. Google this week has added a new section to its report to answers users’ questions such as: Why might a government agency request my data? or I received an e-mail from Google saying that someone has requested information related to my account. What does this mean?
“We’re proud of our approach,” Drummond said. “We believe it’s the right way to make sure governments can pursue legitimate investigations while we do our best to protect your privacy and security.”
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Rumors that Lenovo is actively seeking to acquire Canadian company Research in Motion (RIM) have been blown out of proportion, according to the Chinese firm.
In an interview last week with Bloomberg, Chief Financial Officer Wong Wai Ming was quoted: “We are looking at all opportunities — RIM and many others. We’ll have no hesitation if the right opportunity comes along that could benefit us and shareholders.”
That comment, it appears, has fueled speculation that an acquisition was pretty much a done deal.
Not so, says Lenovo.
A Lenovo spokesperson told CNet in an e-mail although the company usually does not comment on rumors and speculation, the firm felt it necessary to clarify Wong’s comments, which were taken out of context.
“We are aware that Lenovo’s CFO Waiming was speaking broadly about M&A strategy in a recent interview,” the statement reads. “RIM was raised as a potential target by the journalist and Mr. Wong repeatedly answered in a manner consistent with all of our previous statements on M&A strategy: Lenovo is very focused on growing its business, both organically and through M&A. When inorganic ideas arise, we explore them to see if there is a strategic fit.”
This is not the first rumor to circulate about RIM being snapped up by another technology company. Both Samsung and IBM have been rumored to be interested in an acquisition.
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins’ comments earlier this month have done little to abate acquisition talk.
Heins told German newspaper Die Welt he would consider selling RIM’s Smartphone operation.
Although Heins has publicly stated he is open to licensing the company’s software, this was the first time he has talked of leaving the manufacturing business completely.
On the other side of the coin, RIM could also opt to continue manufacturing its Smartphones and license to other companies such as Samsung or LG.
All options, however, are dependent on the success of BlackBerry 10, which RIM will launch Jan. 30.
If the new device helps RIM to reclaim a slice of the Smartphone market currently dominated by Android-powered Samsung devices and Apple’s iPhone, it would make BlackBerry a more desirable acquisition.
A strategic review will be carried out after the debut of BlackBerry 10 so the company can weigh its options, Heins said.
The BlackBerry 10 truly will be the beleaguered Waterloo, Ont. company’s last chance at redemption.
With a net loss of $235 million in the last quarter, RIM desperately needs its new Smartphones to be a success.
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U.S. Leads in Requests for Users’ Twitter Info
The United States, it seems, is the leader when it comes to requesting user information from technology and social media sites.
According to Twitter’s transparency report, released Jan. 28, 81 percent of all information requests came from U.S. agencies.
Google, which released its report Jan. 25, also had the majority of requests from American government agencies and courts.
Twitter received user information requests from 30 different governments in 2012. During the second half of the year, it received inquiries from 23 countries with an increase of 160 requests over the first half.
The U.S. far surpassed all other countries making 815 user information requests about 1,145 Twitter user accounts last year. In second place was Japan with 62 requests about 75 accounts.
Twitter complied with 69 percent of requests from U.S. agencies, giving “some or all information” requested. Sixty percent of the requests were subpoenas, 19 percent were search warrants and 11 percent were court orders.
WhatsApp Breaches International Privacy Laws
Cross-platform app WhatsApp breached international privacy laws because users must consent to the use of their address book for the app to work properly, according to a ruling by Canadian and Dutch data protection authorities.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Dutch Data Protection Authority released their findings Jan. 28 from a collaborative investigation into the handling of personal information by the California-based mobile app developer.
“The investigation revealed that users of WhatsApp — apart from iPhone users who have iOS 6 software — do not have a choice to use the app without granting access to their entire address book. The address book contains phone numbers of both users and non-users,” Dutch Data Protection Authority chairman Jacob Johnstamm said in a statement.
The two agencies said WhatsApp relies on users’ phone numbers to “populate” the instant messenger’s contacts list. The phone numbers are transmitted to WhatsApp to “assist in the identification of other WhatsApp users” but, instead of deleting the phone number of non-users, WhatsApp saves the numbers in an unreadable hash form.
This contravenes both Canadian and Dutch privacy law, which maintains personal data can be retained only as long as is required for the fulfillment of a particular service.
“Our investigation has led to WhatsApp making and committing to make further changes in order to better protect users’ personal information,” Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said in the joint statement.
Apple Likely to Release 128GB iPad
Apple is getting set to launch a 128 GB version of its iPad, sources have told 9to5Mac.
The gadget would be a new SKU for the current fourth-generation iPad with Retina display line, the site reports.
The WiFi-only model iPad would sell for $799 while the cellular-compatible device would retail for $929.
According to the site, the fourth-generation iPad — not a new design — will be offered in black or white.
“It is a more premium SKU that will join the current line of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB fourth-generation iPads,” the site says.
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