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Tech giants’ third-quarter results are a mixed bag

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company is seeing more customers do their holiday shopping early as a result of the pandemic.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company is seeing more customers do their holiday shopping early than ever before as a result of the pandemic.
(David Ryder / Getty Images)

Five technology giants reported earnings Thursday, providing the latest indication of how they’re rebounding from an economic slowdown earlier this year related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results come a day after the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter testified before the Senate Commerce Committee, rebuffing accusations of anti-conservative bias and promising to aggressively defend their platforms from being used to sow chaos in next week’s election.

Apple

Apple didn’t get its usual late-September surge in sales from its latest iPhone models, but still managed to eke out a slight increase in revenue during the July through September quarter, although profits fell.

Production problems lingering from factory shutdowns during the onset of the pandemic led to the iPhone delay, although analysts expect it will bounce back with a huge fourth quarter, which includes the holiday shopping season.

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Apple’s revenue rose to $64.7 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet Research had braced for a drop to $63.6 billion. Profit, meanwhile, fell 7% from the year-earlier quarter to $12.7 billion. But earnings per share amounted to 73 cents, above the average estimate of 70 cents among analysts polled by FactSet.

Apple’s stock dropped more than 4% in extended trading. Investors may have been jarred by a significant decline in iPhone sales, which plunged 21% from a year earlier to $26.4 billion. Apple offset that erosion with strong sales of its services, including its music and streaming services, as well as its wireless ear buds and internet-connected watch.

Alphabet

Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet, returned to robust financial growth during the summer. In the previous quarter, it suffered its first-ever quarterly decline in revenue amid the economic slowdown stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company’s third-quarter revenuerose 14% from a year earlier to $46.2 billion. Its profit soared 59% to $11.2 billion, or $16.40 per share. Both figures easily surpassed analysts’ estimates, lifting Alphabet’s stock price by 9% in Thursday’s extended trading after the numbers came out.

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The rebound, as usual, was propelled by the ad spending that has established Google has one of the world’s most proficient moneymaking machines. But the U.S. Justice Department is now seeking to throw a monkey wrench into Google’s financial gears with a recently filed lawsuit that accuses the company of abusing its dominance of search to boost its profit and stifle competition.

Facebook

Facebook said Thursday that its third-quarter profit and revenue continued to grow along with its worldwide user base, but looking ahead to 2021 the company predicted a “significant amount of uncertainty.”

Facebook earned $7.85 billion, or $2.71 per share, in the July through September period. That’s up 29% from $6.09 billion, or $2.12 per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 22% to $21.22 billion from $17.38 billion.

Analysts were expecting earnings of $2.18 per share on revenue of $19.80 billion, according to a poll by FactSet.

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The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company’s stock slipped $7.83, or 2.8%, to $273 in after-hours trading after the results came out. The stock had closed up nearly 5% at $280.83.

The social media giant’s average monthly user base was 2.74 billion as of Sept. 30, up 12% from a year earlier.

Amazon

Amazon continued to benefit from shopping trends during the pandemic, reporting record profit and revenue during the third quarter. The company reported net income of $6.3 billion in the three months that ended Sept. 30, nearly triple that of a year earlier.

Earnings per share came to $12.37, about $5 more than Wall Street analysts expected. Revenue soared 37% to $96.1 billion, also beating expectations.

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The online shopping giant is also expecting a big end to the year as the holiday shopping season picks up. Amazon said Thursday that it expects fourth-quarter sales to rise 28% to 38% from a year earlier to $112 billion to $121 billion.

The last three months of the year are always Amazon’s biggest, due to the holidays. But this year, Amazon also held its Prime Day sales event during the quarter for the first time after postponing it from July to October due to the pandemic. Prime Day has become one of the company’s busiest shopping events of the year.

“We’re seeing more customers than ever shopping early for their holiday gifts,” Amazon founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said in a written statement. “Which is just one of the signs that this is going to be an unprecedented holiday season.”

Twitter

Twitter posted much stronger than expected third-quarter results, boosted by surging advertiser demand and a bigger user base as more people signed up to follow U.S. politics and current events worldwide.

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The San Francisco company earned $28.66 million, or four cents a share, in the July-September period. That’s down 22% from $36.5 million, or five cents a share, a year earlier, due to higher expenses in part related to COVID-19. Excluding one-time items, earnings were 19 cents a share.

Revenue grew 14% to 936.2 million from $823.7 million. Analysts were expecting a loss of 10 cents a share, adjusted earnings of six cents a share and revenue of $777.3 million, according to a poll by FactSet.

Twitter had 187 million daily users, on average, in the third quarter. That’s up 29% from a year earlier. The company no longer discloses monthly user figures.

The company predicted uncertainty going forward, due in part to the upcoming U.S. election and said it is “hard to predict how advertiser behavior could change.”

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Twitter’s stock fell $6.06, or 11.6%, to $46.37 in after-hours trading. The stock had closed up $3.92, or 8.1%, at $52.43.


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