Profits only rose 17% to $1.2 billion

Shares of Google took a hit Thursday after fourth-quarter earnings for the Internet giant didn’t meet Wall Street’s high expectations.

While profits rose 17% to $1.2 billion during the final three months of 2007 from $1.03 billion a year earlier, it still wasn’t enough for investors who expected Google to prove it was immune to an economic downturn.

Still, sales of online ads and searches helped the company boost its revenue by 51% during the quarter to $4.83 billion, besting the $3.21 billion of a year ago.

Results come as Google is upping its presence in the social networking realm, launching a system for selling ads to mobile devices and making moves to integrate its purchase of online ad giant DoubleClick.

Google’s stock rose nearly 3%, or $16.03, on Thursday to close at $564.30 but fell more than 9% in after-hours trading. Shares in the company traded as high as $747.24 in November.

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