Two bad things happened to Internet search giant Google Thursday: the company missed Wall Street earnings expectations for the third quarter by a country mile; and its earnings release hit the wires in the middle of the trading day, rather than after hours.
The stock has stopped trading on the Nasdqaq exchange while everybody gets this all sorted out. In an amusing turn, a Twitter account has already been created for @PendingLarry, a reference to a line from Google's premature release to the SEC, "PENDING LARRY QUOTE," with the "Larry" being Google CEO Larry Page.
Former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt was on CNBC Thursday saying that the screwup with Google's release — which could equally be blamed on R.R. Donnelly, who handles the technical aspects of Google's SEC reporting — means that folks who just lost a ton of money ($19 billion market capitalization basically vanished in a matter of minutes) will lawyer up and sue everybody in sight.
But what is the story behind Google's big earnings miss?
The Street wanted $10.63 a share in adjusted earnings, but they only got $9.03. The main culprit was probably Motorola Mobility, which Google bought last year for $12.5 billion. This was the first quarter than Motorola Mobility's financial performance had a bearing on Google's results, and Motorola Mobility's performance wasn't so great, costing Google more than half a billion dollars.
This will all get sorted out over the next week or so, and Google management will have a chance to calm investors when it holds its earnings call after the market closes. But some investors may be looking at this as a buying opportunity, if today's trades are allowed to stand by the SEC.