Maybe Google, which has become notorious for not providing Wall Street analysts with forward-looking financial “guidance,” was trying to give some surreptitiously. Or maybe someone just… what’s the term? Oh yes – screwed up. The search giant managed to inadvertently let some financial data loose on its website, which quick-thinking Google-watchers naturally archived before it could disappear, and as a result the company had to file a financial statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission or risk running afoul of disclosure laws. The gaffe caused the high-flying stock to stumble on Wednesday.
“I’ve seen a few bizarre things on the street, especially in the past year, and this would be close to the top of the list,'” Pacific Growth Equities analyst Derek Brown told the San Jose Mercury News. Not only was the financial data somewhat less appealing than many analysts had been expecting – both in terms of revenue growth and also what it says about pressure on profit margins for Google’s Internet ad business – but the slip-up didn’t exactly restore anyone’s confidence in the search giant’s ability to handle itself as a public company with a $100-billion market value.
Just a week or so ago, the company’s chief financial officer made some comments about slowing growth that hit the stock as well – comments the company later tried to distance itself from. And when it comes to non-financial matters, Google seems to have difficulty keeping its trap shut as well: in addition to the forecasts for revenue, slides used for a presentation to analysts included details about hitherto unknown Google projects such as the “Gdrive” or Web-based universal file storage.
As one analyst said after Google’s initial stock offering, during which the founders gave an interview to Playboy magazine (which was also technically against disclosure rules): “Sounds like they could do with some adult supervision over there.” Former analyst and tech-stock lightning rod Henry Blodget says too many people are whining about “guidance,” and he’s probably right.