What to expect from Google's Q1 earnings

Search giant due to report results after Thursday's market close; first of Page era

The first thing you shouldn't expect from Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) when it releases first-quarter results following Thursday's market close is the announcement of a new CEO. It's not like they can do that every quarter.

What you can expect is less focus on the immediate numbers and more on the direction Google co-founder and new chief executive Larry Page intends to take the search giant.

(Also see: Google granted most trivial patent in history)

Page, who took over the top spot from Eric Schmidt on April 4 (after the change was announced during fiscal fourth quarter earnings in late January), makes Wall Street a little nervous because 1) he's relatively young (38) to be CEO of a $144 billion corporation with a workforce of more than 24,000, and 2) He has this weird idea about investing in long-term opportunities.

As the Associated Press notes, "That philosophy has caused some investors and analysts to wonder if the company will exceed Wall Street's quarterly earnings targets as consistently as it did under Schmidt for the past 6 1/2 years."

Enough have been wondering that shares of Google were down 9 percent through Tuesday since Page's ascension was announced on Jan. 20.

Page says one of his major goals is to eliminate bureaucracy from the Google decision-making and innovation process. Yet for some reason he promoted seven executives last week to newly created senior vice president roles, which sounds like more bureaucracy, not less. Was that a pre-emptive move to keep high-level talent from jumping to Facebook?

Page's other major announcement since taking the helm was to inform all Google employees that part of their bonuses will be dependent on the success of the company's social media initiatives.

Expect Page to be questioned in the earnings conference call with analysts about Google's social media strategy, particularly how it plans to effectively compete against Facebook.

Other topics will include the company's strategy for combating regulatory challenges to its expanding business empire and the expected impact of a substantially expanded workforce on this fiscal year's bottom line.

For Q1, consensus analyst estimates call for earnings of $8.10 a share, compared to $6.76 a share last year, on net revenue of $6.3 billion, versus $5.06 billion in the previous first quarter.

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