Alphabet Beats Earnings On Strong Google Revenue, Future Bets Cost $3.6 Billion in 2015

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Courtesy of Alphabet

Turns out making self-driving cars can be expensive — but Alphabet can afford it anyway. The company formerly known as Google revealed to investors Monday that its non-core businesses lost close to $3.6 billion in 2015. This revelation came as Alphabet reported better-than-expected revenue for its recent Q4 of 2015, which ended on December 31.

Across all of its businesses, Alphabet generated $21.3 billion in revenue during Q4 of 2015, compared to $18.1 billion during the same quarter a year ago. During Q4, it brought in $4.9 billion in adjusted net income, compared to $4.7 billion a year ago. This equaled non-adjusted earnings of $8.67 per share, compared to $6.76 per share a year ago. Analysts had expected the company’s revenue to come in at $20.8 billion, and earnings of $8.09 per share.

But while those numbers obviously matter to investors, there was a lot more anticipation about a different set of metrics. This was the first time for the company to separately report Google’s core ad and mobile businesses and the other companies that are operating under its Alphabet umbrella, something Alphabety casually calls “other bets.”

These include more lucrative brands like Nest, the smart home company best known for its learning thermostat, as well as more experimental bets that don’t generate revenue at all yet, like self-driving cars.

Alphabet detailed on Monday that these “other bets” lost close to $3.6 billion in 2015, compared to losses of $1.9 billion for the same business units during 2014. Interestingly, losses nearly doubled as revenue grew slower: In 2015, cash-generating “other bets” like Nest brought in $448 million, compared to $327 million in 2014.

Investors had long wondered how much Google was spending on these so-called moonshots, and whether the company was risking too much instead of focusing on its profitable businesses. These reservations were one of the key reasons for Google to restructure as Alphabet last summer.

Alphabet still didn’t break out how much each of those other bets cost or made, meaning we won’t know how much the company has been investing in Access, which was previously known as Google Fiber, or how much revenue exactly Nest is generating. The company has long kept mum on the performance of specific business units, leading to plenty of speculation about the performance of YouTube in particular.

Speaking of YouTube: The video site was once again credited with being a key driver in Google’s growing revenue, with Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat saying: “YouTube revenue continues to grow at a very significant rate.”  Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that consumers watch “hundreds of millions of hours” of video on YouTube, adding: “The time people spent watching YouTube in the living room more that doubled in 2015.”

But YouTube also received a shout-out as one of the key factors driving Google’s expenses these days, with Porat referencing content costs among data center operating costs and expenses related to Google’s consumer hardware as the biggest contributors.

One other area that received multiple mentions was Google’s still-nascent virtual reality project. Pichai said that Google’s Cardboard was “just a first step,” and promised that there will be more to see in this area from Google and its partners in 2016. Recently, Google announced that more than five million Cardboard VR headsets have been shipped to consumers.