Next time you wonder how Google can afford to buy dozens of startups every year, consider just how much money it has on hand.
The search giant’s cash pile grew to just more than $50 billion in the March quarter, up from $48.1 billion at the end of 2012, the company revealed in its first quarter earnings report on Thursday. That’s still less than half as much cash as Apple has, but it will likely serve as a powerful resource for Google to continue buying up technology and top talent from companies, as well as investing in so-called “moonshot” projects.
As Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt pointed out during a Q&A session at AllThingsD’s Dive Into Mobile conference earlier this week, he is not a fan of companies holding onto an excess amount of cash. “What I really think about tech companies and cash is that there is a point where you have enough cash that you need to either start investing that stuff or lowering your prices,” he said. Simply letting the cash pile grow, he says, would be a “missed opportunity for investment.”
Google has never been shy about using its money to invest in infrastructure and acquisitions. In 2011, the company spent $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility and its portfolio of patents. Earlier this year, Google’s CFO suggested that the cash pile gives the company the “strategic ability to pounce” and, in the case of Motorola, “move on a dime” to make the acquisition.
While Google may have significantly less cash than Apple, its willingness to bet some of it on potentially risky companies and projects may be what sets it apart from Apple going forward. While Apple’s stock price has collapsed below $400, Google’s has climbed above $750 driven in part by the perception that it, unlike Apple, has more breakthrough products in the pipeline.
Even apart from the cash pile, Google’s profits and revenue continue to grow as well. Google reported a profit of $11.58 per share in the first quarter on revenue of $13.97 billion, beating Wall Street’s earnings estimates of $10.69, though falling short of revenue estimates of $14.04 billion.
The company still has some problems to fix in the short-term, most notably the decline in cost-per-clicks, which declined 4% in the first quarter from the year before, but the rate of decline has slowed, suggesting that it is stabilizing.
Image via Getty, Chris Hondros