Earnings: Google Beats Expectations ... More Earnings

Earnings: Google | General Motors | Merck | Continental| Bank Of America | Altria | UPS | BellSouth

Google Beats Street Expectations

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc. (GOOG), the world's largest Web search supplier, Thursday said net income jumped as revenue rose 79 percent, fueled by market share gains against rivals such as Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)

Net income for the first quarter rose to $592 million, or $1.95 per diluted share, compared with the year-earlier quarter's $372 million, or $1.29 per diluted share. Revenue rose 79 percent to $2.25 billion — compared with Wall Street forecasts for 63 percent to 78 percent growth.

Excluding one-time items and stock-based compensation, Wall Street analysts were looking for a consensus profit of $1.98 per share. Including these items, net profit, on average, was expected to be $1.73 a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Analysts were looking for first-quarter revenue, on average, of $2.15 billion, according to Reuters Estimates. Forecasts ranged between $2.05 billion and $2.24 billion.

General Motors Posts 6th Straight Loss

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp. (GM) Thursday posted its sixth straight quarterly loss as the automaker struggled to cut high labor and health care costs in the face of a steepening decline in U.S. sales.

The world's largest automaker reported a first-quarter net loss of $323 million, or 57 cents per share, compared with a loss of $1.3 billion, or $2.22 per share a year earlier.

GM, which lost $10.6 billion in 2005, posted a gain of just over 4 percent in global vehicle sales in the first quarter, but a drop of 5 percent in the U.S. market, where its strategy hinges on the success of a new line of sport-utility vehicles.

Excluding one-time items, but including a $1 billion pre-tax healthcare charge, GM lost $529 million, or 94 cents a share. Excluding that health-care charge, equivalent to $1.20 a share, GM would have posted a profit of 26 cents a share.

On that basis, analysts on average had forecast a loss of 42 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

GM had said earlier this month that it would take a pre-tax charge of at least $1 billion to account for payments to a fund created for future retiree health-care costs.

That charge reflected a deal with the United Auto Workers union to cut GM's outlays on health care, which the automaker said would save it about $13 billion over six years.

Revenue rose to $52.2 billion from $45.8 billion a year earlier.

GM shares rose in pre-market trade to $20.90 from a Wednesday close of $20.57.

In response to dwindling market share, GM plans to cut 30,000 jobs and close a dozen plants, and has cut top executive pay. GM also halved its dividend in the first quarter, cutting it for the first time in more than 13 years.

Pressure on GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner mounted in the first quarter as the company restated earnings due to accounting errors. But GM also took a series of steps to advance its restructuring efforts.

In an effort to cut high labor costs and avoid a crippling shutdown at former subsidiary Delphi Corp., GM offered buyouts to more than 125,000 factory workers, including 13,000 workers at the now-bankrupt Delphi.

In order to raise cash for its restructuring and lower borrowing costs for its finance arm, GM has also agreed to sell a majority stake in GMAC for about $14 billion to a consortium led by hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management LP.

GM remains under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for issues ranging from accounting for sales of precious metals to the way it booked payments from suppliers.

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Merck & Co Posts Jump In Profit

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. - (AP) - Drugmaker Merck & Co. (MRK) reported an 11 percent jump in first-quarter profit Thursday, despite flat sales, as results were buoyed by higher interest income and revenues from its cholesterol-drug joint venture.

The maker of blockbusters Fosamax for osteoporosis and Zocor for high cholesterol said net income totaled $1.52 billion, or 69 cents per share, up from $1.37 billion, or 62 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding a charge of 9 cents per share for eliminating jobs and closing facilities as part of the global restructuring announced last December, earnings per share would have been 78 cents. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting 72 cents per share.

Revenues edged up less than 1 percent, to $5.41 billion from $5.36 billion, led by strong sales of Zocor, some Merck vaccines and Singulair for asthma and allergies. Analysts had been expecting $5.47 billion in sales.

"We clearly are making progress against the goals we outlined in December to return Merck to an industry-leading position," Chief Executive Officer Richard T. Clark said in a statement.

Continental Airlines' Loss Narrows

HOUSTON -(AP) - Continental Airlines Inc., (CAL) one of the nation's biggest airlines, said Thursday its first-quarter loss narrowed as higher revenue and cost cuts helped boost its results.

The Houston-based company reported a loss of $66 million, or 76 cents per share, for the three months ended March 31 compared with a loss of $186 million, or $2.79 per share last year. Excluding a loss of $20 million from special items, Continental's loss totaled $46 million, or 53 cents per share.

Revenue rose 18 percent to $2.95 billion from $2.51 billion, helping Continental to post its first operating profit for a first quarter since 2001, the company said. Operating income totaled $11 million despite a 31 percent increase in fuel prices.

Continental said its results also were boosted by savings from wage and benefit cuts and other cost controls. During the quarter, the company ratified a new labor agreement with flight attendants, that combined with other labor contracts, will save about $500 million in run-rate costs.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected a loss of 62 cents per share on revenue of $2.88 billion.

Bank Of America Profit Surges 14%

CHARLOTTE - (AP) - Bank of America Corp. (BAC) said Thursday first-quarter profit surged 14 percent as the nation's largest retail bank was boosted by its acquisition of credit card company MBNA Corp.

Quarterly profit rose to $4.99 billion, or $1.07 per share, from $4.39 billion, or $1.07 per share, in the year-ago period. Excluding charges related to the acquisition., Bank of America posted earnings of $5.05 billion, or $1.08 per share.

Results included expenses of $320 million, or 5 cents per share, from the impact of stock option accounting. In addition, Bank of America said it terminated some derivatives used as part of its hedging strategy, reducing earnings per share by $175 million, or 2 cents per share.

Analysts, on average, projected earnings of $1 per share on $16.79 billion of revenue, according to Thomson Financial.

Strong performance at its consumer businesses and improvements in trading accounts performance and equity investments drove revenue up 31 percent to $17.94 billion from $13.74 billion a year earlier. On a pro forma basis, as if MBNA had been part of Bank of America's operations for the year-ago quarter, revenue rose 10 percent.

"We have strong momentum in all our businesses as the benefits from continued execution in our consumer businesses were accompanied this quarter by a rebound in trading and good performance in investment banking and wealth management," said Chairman and Chief Executive Ken Lewis in a statement.

Altria Profit Up 34% On Tax Benefit

NEW YORK - (AP) - Altria Group Inc., (MO) parent of cigarette maker Philip Morris and food company Kraft Foods, said Wednesday its first-quarter profit rose 34 percent on a tax benefit.

Net income grew to $3.48 billion, or $1.65 per share, from $2.6 billion, or $1.25 per share, a year ago. Results for the latest quarter include a tax benefit of 46 cents per share. Revenue rose 3 percent to $24.36 billion from $23.62 billion last year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected earnings of $1.27 per share on revenue of $16.84 billion.

The company reaffirmed its earnings-per-share forecast of $5.25 to $5.35 for the year. Analysts estimate earnings per share of $5.28.

UPS Profit Up 10%

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Package delivery company United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) said Thursday that net profit for the first quarter rose 10 percent, boosted by growth in global small package services, narrowly beating analysts' estimates.

The company also reaffirmed its outlook for full-year 2006 earnings.

The Atlanta-based company said quarterly net profit totaled $975 million, or 89 cents a share, compared with $882 million, or 78 cents a share, a year earlier.

Wall Street was expecting earnings per share of 88 cents on average, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue for the quarter totaled $11.5 billion, compared with $9.9 billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected revenue of $11.1 billion.

UPS said it expected earnings per share in a range of 97 cents to $1.01 a share in the second quarter. Wall Street forecasts earnings for the second quarter of $1.00 a share.

"UPS continues to expect an increase in diluted earnings per share of 11 percent to 16 percent, consistent with the company's historical growth rate," UPS Chief Financial Officer Scott Davis said in a statement.

BellSouth Sees Higher Profit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - BellSouth Corp. (BLS), the No. 3 U.S. regional phone company, on Thursday said first-quarter profit and revenue rose, boosted by its Cingular Wireless joint venture and high-speed Internet services.

U.S. telephone companies are depending more on wireless and broadband for growth amid declines in their traditional home phone business. BellSouth agreed to be bought by AT&T Inc last month to bring their Cingular venture under one roof.

BellSouth said normalized profit, including its 40 percent share of Cingular, rose to $983 million, or 54 cents a share, for the quarter from $818 million, or 45 cents a share a year earlier.

Operating revenue rose 4.5 percent to $8.68 billion. The results were slightly ahead of average analyst forecasts for earnings of 53 cents a share on revenue of $8.64 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

BellSouth was the first of the U.S. regional phone companies to report this quarter. AT&T and Verizon Communications plan to report in coming weeks.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Chris King said BellSouth's earnings were largely in-line with estimates, though the company's growth in high-speed Internet services beat his forecast.

BellSouth shares have recently traded in step with AT&T in anticipation of their deal.

BellSouth added 263,000 new high-speed Internet customers in the quarter, bringing its total number of broadband customers to 3.1 million. King said he had expected 245,000 new broadband customers.

Cingular said on Wednesday that it added 1.7 million new subscribers during the quarter, well ahead of analyst estimates. It had also reported a 9 percent increase in revenue to $9 billion.

BellSouth said its net profit, excluding Cingular, fell to 43 cents a share from 58 cents a share a year earlier, mainly due to a hefty gain the year before from the sale of its Latin American operations.

Shares of BellSouth have risen by almost a third in the last six months as investors bet that AT&T would buy the company.

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