Alphabet posts worst profit margin since 2004 Alphabet posts worst profit margin since 2004 Alphabet posts worst profit margin since 2004

Alphabet posts worst profit margin since 2004

Equities 5 minutes to read
Peter Garnry

Head of Saxo Strats

Summary:  News of a massive spending spree by Alphabet on data centres for its subsidiary Google has left its shares with a bit of a hangover as investors responded by chopping 4% off their price.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reported Q4 earnings last night with revenue ex-TAC (excluding traffic acquisition cost) at $31.8bn beating estimates of $31.3bn. Looking at the gross revenue number (so not taking out TAC) it came out at $39.3bn up 22% y/y while EBITDA at $10.8bn was only up 11% y/y. The Q4 2018 EBITDA margin was 27.5% which is actually the lowest in Alphabet’s history as a publically listed company and the worst since Q1 2004.

The reason for this margin squeeze is an astronomical rise in capital expenditure on datacentres related to the Google search engine, YouTube video streaming service, Waymo (autonomous car service) and cloud infrastructure. The company said in the conference call that YouTube is driving the majority of the rise in capital spending. 12-month rolling capital expenditure has gone from around $10bn in 2016 to $25bn in 2018. As a result, the free cash flow generation has declined the past two years, which is longest streak since the period 2013-2014 where Alphabet had a mild contraction in free cash flow generation. Investors were concerned over these developments sending the shares down 4% in after-market trading.
Interesting takeaways from the conference call:

Expect capital expenditure to slow down meaningfully – we are not that sure about that for 2019
Google is increasing its investments into e-gaming
Cloud business is the fastest growing business in the Alphabet group
5 million paying G Suite customers
The board has authorised $12.5bn in share buybacks

Elsewhere in equity markets

This morning the Danish jewellery company Pandora reported Q4 numbers that significantly topped estimates. Q4 EBITDA was DKK 2.8bn vs est. DKK 2.5bn and revenue also topped estimates at DKK 7.9bn. Investors have sent shares up 14% on the news.

Pandora has been a heavily shorted stock for years by US-based hedge funds in particular. If today’s earnings release reverses sentiment then Pandora’s shares could experience a short squeeze in the short-term. But for perspective, the company’s troubles are not over yet as management is guiding negative organic revenue growth of 3-7% in FY19 with likely more downside than upside risk given the weak economy in especially Asia.
Pandora shareprice the past five years. Source: Saxo Bank
Upcoming IPO

The hugely popular business collaboration platform Slack has confidentially filed for IPO in a direct listing approach similar to that of Spotify last year. Slack has all the ingredients to become a huge IPO in terms of interest and according to a previous Fortune article people close to the deal suggest a valuation at around $7bn. Little of information about the progress of the company slipped out over the years but one recent number suggests around 8 million active business users. We will follow up as soon as the company has filed its S-1 filing with the SEC.


The Saxo Group entities each provide execution-only service, and access to analysis permitting a person to view and/or use content available on or via the website is not intended to and does not change or expand on this. Such access and use are at all times subject to (i) The Terms of Use; (ii) Full Disclaimer; (iii) The Risk Warning; (iv) the Inspiration Disclaimer and (v) Notices applying to Trade Inspiration, Saxo News & Research and/or its content in addition (where relevant) to the terms governing the use of hyperlinks on the website of a member of the Saxo Group by which access to Saxo News & Research is gained. Such content is therefore provided as no more than information. In particular, no advice is intended to be provided or to be relied on as provided nor endorsed by any Saxo Group entity; nor is it to be construed as solicitation or an incentive provided to subscribe for or sell or purchase any financial instrument. All trading or investments you make must be pursuant to your own unprompted and informed self-directed decision. As such no Saxo Group entity will have or be liable for any losses that you may sustain as a result of any investment decision made in reliance on information which is available on Saxo News & Research or as a result of the use of the Saxo News & Research. Orders given and trades effected are deemed intended to be given or effected for the account of the customer with the Saxo Group entity operating in the jurisdiction in which the customer resides and/or with whom the customer opened and maintains his/her trading account. Saxo News & Research does not contain (and should not be construed as containing) financial, investment, tax or trading advice or advice of any sort offered, recommended or endorsed by Saxo Group and should not be construed as a record of our trading prices, or as an offer, incentive or solicitation for the subscription, sale or purchase in any financial instrument. To the extent that any content is construed as investment research, you must note and accept that the content was not intended to and has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such, would be considered as a marketing communication under relevant laws.

Trading in financial instruments carries risk, and may not be suitable for you. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Please read our disclaimers:
Notification on Non-Independent Investment Research (
Full disclaimer (

None of the information contained here constitutes an offer to purchase or sell a financial instrument, or to make any investments. Saxo Markets does not take into account your personal investment objectives or financial situation and makes no representation and assumes no liability as to the accuracy or completeness of the information nor for any loss arising from any investment made in reliance of this presentation. Any opinions made are subject to change and may be personal to the author. These may not necessarily reflect the opinion of Saxo Markets or its affiliates.

Saxo Markets
88 Market Street
CapitaSpring #31-01
Singapore 048948

Contact Saxo

Select region


Saxo Capital Markets Pte Ltd ('Saxo Markets') is a company authorised and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) [Co. Reg. No.: 200601141M ] and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Saxo Bank A/S, headquartered in Denmark. Please refer to our General Business Terms & Risk Warning to consider whether acquiring or continuing to hold financial products is suitable for you, prior to opening an account and investing in a financial product.

Trading in financial instruments carries various risks, and is not suitable for all investors. Please seek expert advice, and always ensure that you fully understand these risks before trading. Trading in leveraged products such as Margin FX products may result in your losses exceeding your initial deposits. Saxo Markets does not provide financial advice, any information available on this website is ‘general’ in nature and for informational purposes only. Saxo Markets does not take into account an individual’s needs, objectives or financial situation.

The Saxo trading platform has received numerous awards and recognition. For details of these awards and information on awards visit

The information or the products and services referred to on this website may be accessed worldwide, however is only intended for distribution to and use by recipients located in countries where such use does not constitute a violation of applicable legislation or regulations. Products and Services offered on this website are not intended for residents of the United States, Malaysia and Japan. Please click here to view our full disclaimer.

This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Apple and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc, registered in the US and other countries and regions. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.