Articles, Blog

Alphabet 2019 Q4 Earnings Call

February 9, 2020


Candice (Operator): Ladies and gentlemen,
thank you for standing by and welcome to the Alphabet fourth quarter 2019 earnings conference
call. At this time, all participants’ lines are
in a listen-only mode. After the speakers’ presentation, there
will be a question and answer session. To ask a question during this session, you
will need to press star and then one on your telephone. If you require any further assistance, please
press star then zero. I would now like to hand the conference over
to your speaker today, Ellen West, Head of Investor Relations. Please go ahead. Ellen West, VP Investor Relations: Thank you,
Candice. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Alphabet’s
fourth-quarter 2019 earnings conference call. With us today are Sundar Pichai and Ruth Porat. Now I’ll quickly cover the Safe Harbor. Some of the statements that we make today
regarding our business performance and operations, and our expected level of capital expenditures
may be considered forward-looking, and such statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties
that could cause actual results to differ materially. For more information, please refer to the
risk factors discussed in our most recent Form 10-K filed with the SEC. During this call, we will present both GAAP
and non-GAAP financial measures. A reconciliation of non-GAAP to GAAP measures
is included in today’s earnings press release, which is distributed and available to the
public through our Investor Relations website located at abc.xyz/investor. And now I’ll turn the call over to Sundar. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: Thank you, Ellen, and good afternoon, everyone. It’s a privilege to join the call as the
CEO of both Alphabet and Google, after four years as CEO of Google. I’d like to start by thanking Larry and
Sergey for giving all of us at Google a timeless mission, enduring values and an opportunity
to have an impact on the world. There’s a lot I want to cover today and
I also want to leave plenty of time for any questions you may have for me and Ruth. As you’ve seen in our press release, we’ve
added new revenue disclosures to give greater insight into our business. Search and other Google properties continue
to drive great results, with total revenues in 2019 of $98 billion and strong growth. I’m also really pleased with two of our
newer growth areas. YouTube reached $15 billion in ads revenues
in 2019, growing at 36% compared with 2018. And it now has over 20 million Music and Premium
paid subscribers, and over 2 million YouTube TV paid subscribers — ending 2019 at a $3
billion annual run rate in YouTube subscriptions and other non-advertising revenues. Google Cloud ended 2019 at a more than $10
billion run rate, up 53% year-on-year driven by significant growth in GCP. The growth rate of GCP was meaningfully higher
than that of Cloud overall and GCP’s growth rate accelerated from 2018 to 2019. Before I talk about the highlights of the
quarter, I want to take a step back and give some early thoughts about my approach to managing
Alphabet and the Other Bets. We have always taken a long term view, investing
in deep computer science and technology. Important trends like the wider adoption and
application of artificial intelligence, ambient computing and the move to the Cloud, underline
our investments across Google and our other Alphabet companies. Our work in healthcare is a great example
of how our investments in these areas allows us to deliver solutions across an entire sector: Google Cloud works with hospitals and healthcare
providers to securely manage their patients’ data – data that is much more secure in the
Cloud than in paper records or on premises. Our AI teams at Google also work with partners
to apply AI to help them and their patients — whether it’s developing better health
systems, or helping with the diagnosis and detection of disease. Among their broader efforts, our Other Bets
Verily and Calico are also partnering with industry leaders, to use AI and cloud technologies
to improve clinical trials, research and drug development. Our thesis has always been to apply these
deep computer science capabilities across Google and our Other Bets to grow and develop
into new areas. The Alphabet structure allows us to have a
portfolio of different businesses with different time horizons, without trying to stretch a
single management team across different areas. We will continue to take a long term view,
managing the portfolio with the discipline and rigor needed to deliver long-term returns. Many of our Other Bets are getting to the
stage where it now makes sense for them to partner closely with other players and investors
in the industry. Waymo’s technological leadership is widely
reported – its cars have driven 20 million miles across more than 25 U.S. cities. Waymo is now serving over 1,500 monthly active
riders in Metro Phoenix and continues scaling fully driverless by matching early riders
with driverless vehicles and charging for these rides. As Waymo looks to its evolution as a business,
it’s focusing on strategic partnerships – for example it’s working closely with
OEMs and other businesses to build out ride-hailing and delivery business lines. And Verily is an example of a company in the
portfolio that has outside investors, Silver Lake and Temasek, as well as its own Board. We’ll consider opportunities for some of
our Other Bets to take similar steps over time. Now, onto highlights from the quarter. First, Search and the Related Google properties. As I mentioned on our last call, our neural-network
based technique for natural language processing, called BERT, is the biggest advancement in
Search in the last five years. It now impacts 10% of searches. And in Q4, we rolled it out in over 70 languages. In Maps, we are celebrating our 15th anniversary
very soon and in the past year we brought reliable directions to 630 million additional
people in locations that previously weren’t well mapped. We added as many buildings to maps using ML
in 2019 as we have added using all techniques in the previous decade. With all these improvements, user growth is
strong and the range of things people are doing with Google Maps continues to expand
as well. The Google Assistant now helps more than 500
million monthly users across 90 countries get things done – across smart speakers and
smart displays, phones, TVs, cars and more. Shopping and commerce is another exciting
area. We’re making strong leadership hires in
this area to help build a thriving business for partners of all sizes. Over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday
weekend, we had the largest number of daily shoppers on Google.com ever in our history. Throughout the entire holiday shopping season,
we also expanded the selection of products on Google due to a 4x uptick in the number
of US merchants participating in our Shopping Actions program. Second, YouTube. Speaking of shopping, people can now easily
buy products in YouTube’s home feed and in search results, making it possible for
advertisers to reach even more audiences. Try searching for “Puma shoes review”
on YouTube to see an example. With all the related content on YouTube like
unboxing and beauty videos, this is a format people love and it delivers a simple in-video
buying experience. A huge focus is continuing our work to keep
YouTube safe for users, creators and advertisers. You may have seen a blog post today about
our work to promote authoritative content and remove misleading information about the
upcoming 2020 elections. For example, we’re applying our deceptive
content policies to reduce misleading information about voting locations or the census process. As I mentioned earlier, we’re pleased with
YouTube’s growth in advertising and subscriptions — and we also are pleased with the early
results from other revenue options we offer creators, including memberships, brand integrations,
merchandise and ticket sales. Continuing on now to Cloud. We’re really pleased with the momentum we’re
seeing in Cloud. Year on year, the number of deals over $50
million more than doubled. The investments in Cloud’s go-to-market
expansion are resulting in customer momentum. Wayfair is one of the many retailers, who
successfully ran holiday operations on Google Cloud. In addition, Lowe’s, which began transitioning
off its legacy e-commerce system in late 2018 to Google Cloud, worked with us during this
year’s peak holiday buying season to improve the stability of their e-commerce site. Worth noting, at peak time, customers in our
Black Friday/Cyber Monday program used 4x the compute resources compared to previous
year, and our platform experienced 100% uptime. Lufthansa Group is using our AI solutions
to develop new tools that will improve air travel operations. The U.S. Postal Service also chose Google
Cloud AI to improve business processes and customer experience. We’ve recently signed a 10 year agreement
with Sabre to help them improve operations and develop new airline and hospitality services. Finally, Google Other Revenue. Android continues to thrive. I’m proud to announce that over $80 billion
has been earned by developers around the world from Google Play, showing the popularity of
our platform. There are now over 2 billion active monthly
users of Google Play. Hardware is still in the early stages of delivering
on our vision for ambient computing. Our Home devices demonstrate how this vision
can come to life in creating the home of the future, with our new Nest Mini and Nest Hub
Max selling well over the holidays, following on from the Pixel 3A which sold well last
year. With Pixel 4, we continued to build out our
capabilities and are keenly focused on execution, delivering great user experiences and broadening
our distribution. And our pending acquisition of Fitbit will
give us a foundation in wearables. I’m excited about our roadmap ahead across
our products. Overall in 2020, our teams at Google are focusing
on four key things. First, creating the most helpful products
for everyone. We’re really focused on ensuring that our
products like Search, Maps and the Assistant are helping people in their daily lives. Second, providing the most trusted experiences
for our users. We’re doing lots of work to keep improving
users’ privacy and security, while also keeping harmful content off our systems. Third, executing at scale. This will show up as more seamless products
across various surfaces and platforms, like the Google Assistant, deeper partnerships,
and better use of our shared infrastructure. For example, Activision Blizzard recently
chose Google as a strategic partner, using Google Cloud’s computing infrastructure,
YouTube for live streaming and our AI tools. Putting together these multi-product partnerships
helps us unlock great opportunities for our partners. And fourth, creating sustainable value. This means optimizing our usage of computing
resources, and also growing business opportunities in areas like YouTube, Cloud, Play, Hardware
and beyond. So as you can see, there’s a lot happening
at the company, and a real sense of excitement and focus. I want to thank our employees for all the
great work in 2019. With that, I’ll turn it over to Ruth and
I look forward to your questions. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: Thanks, Sundar. We’re very pleased with our strong 2019
results, with Total Alphabet Revenues of $162 billion, up 18% year-on-year, or 20% in constant
currency. In dollar terms, this represents an increase
of $25 billion in revenues relative to 2018. I will review our quarterly and annual results,
including our new revenue disclosures, and conclude with our outlook. Sundar and I will then take your questions. Starting with consolidated Alphabet results,
in the fourth quarter our total revenues were $46.1 billion, up 17% year-on-year, and up
19% in constant currency. Our results were driven by ongoing strength
in Search, YouTube and Google Cloud, offset by a decline in Hardware revenues. Details of Alphabet’s consolidated revenues
by geographic region are available in our earnings press release. Regarding our key expense lines, on a consolidated
basis, total cost of revenues, including TAC, was $21.0 billion, up 17% year-on-year. Other cost of revenues on a consolidated basis
was $12.5 billion, up 19% year-over-year, primarily driven by Google-related expenses. The biggest factors here, again this quarter,
were costs associated with our data centers and other operations, including depreciation;
and then content acquisition costs – primarily for YouTube, and mostly for our advertising-supported
content in what has been a seasonally strong quarter for YouTube, but also for our newer
paid YouTube Music and Premium subscription services, as well as YouTube TV, which have
higher content acquisition costs as a percentage of their revenues; these were partially offset
by a decline in costs associated with lower hardware sales. Operating expenses were $15.8 billion, with
headcount growth being the largest driver of year-on-year growth for R&D and sales and
marketing expenses. Headcount drives both compensation and related
facilities expenses. After headcount growth, the biggest driver
in R&D expenses was an increase in valuation-based compensation charges in certain Other Bets. Stock-based compensation totaled $2.6 billion. Headcount was up 4,803 from the third quarter
and up 20% over 2018. Again, the majority of new hires were engineers
and product managers. In terms of product areas, the most sizable
headcount increases were again in Google Cloud, for both technical and sales roles including
the impact of the Looker acquisition which closed in December. Operating income was $9.3 billion, up 13%
year-over-year, for an operating margin of 20%. Other Income & Expense, was $1.4 billion,
which primarily reflects an increase in the market value of certain publicly traded equities,
as well as a non-cash gain from a Verily transaction. We provide more detail on the line items within
OI&E in our earnings press release. Our effective tax rate was 0.3% for the fourth
quarter and was 13% for the full year. The fourth quarter ETR reflects the impact
of discrete items, including the resolution of multi-year audits. As you have seen in prior years, ETR can vary
on a quarterly basis. Net income was $10.7 billion and earnings
per diluted share were $15.35. Turning now to Capex and operating cash flow. Cash Capex for the quarter was $6.0 billion,
which I will discuss in the Google segment results. Operating Cash Flow was $14.4 billion with
Free Cash Flow of $8.4 billion. We ended the quarter with Cash & Marketable
Securities of approximately $120 billion. Let me now turn to our segment financial results. Starting with the Google segment, Revenues
were $45.8 billion, up 17% year-over-year and this, of course, is on a GAAP or floating
FX basis. Google search and other advertising revenues
were $27.2 billion in the quarter, up 17% year-over-year reflecting ongoing momentum
in mobile and desktop. YouTube advertising revenues were $4.7 billion,
up 31% year-on-year, driven by substantial growth in Direct Response and ongoing healthy
growth in Brand advertising which remains the largest component. Network advertising revenues were $6.0 billion,
up 8% year-on-year, led by growth in Google Ad Manager. Turning to Google Cloud, including GCP and
G Suite, revenues were $2.6 billion for the fourth quarter, up 53% year-over-year, driven
by significant growth at GCP and ongoing strong growth at G Suite. The growth rate of GCP was meaningfully higher
than that of Cloud overall. GCP growth was led by our Infrastructure offerings
and our Data and Analytics platform. We also saw strong uptake of our multi-Cloud
Anthos offering. Ongoing growth in G Suite continued to reflect
growth in both SMB and Enterprise segments and both seat count and average revenue per
seat. The Other Revenues line now consists of Google
Play, followed by Hardware and YouTube’s non-advertising services, mainly its subscription
offerings, YouTube Premium, YouTube Music and YouTube TV. In the fourth quarter, Other Revenues were
$5.3 billion, up 10% year-over-year, primarily driven by growth in YouTube and Play, offset
by declines in Hardware. YouTube’s contribution to Other Revenues
benefited from subscriber growth across its various offerings. Within Play, app revenues had strong growth,
driven by an increase in the number of active buyers. Total traffic acquisition costs were $8.5
billion, or 22% of total advertising revenues, and up 14% year-over-year. Total TAC as a percentage of Total Advertising
Revenues was down year-over-year, reflecting once again a favorable revenue mix shift from
Network to Google Properties. Google Operating income was $11.5 billion,
up 20% versus last year, and the operating margin was 25%. Google Accrued Capex for the quarter was $6.6
billion, reflecting investments in data centers, followed by servers and office facilities. Moving on to the performance of Other Bets. For the full year 2019, revenues were $659
million, up 11% vs. 2018, primarily generated by Fiber and Verily. Operating Loss for Other Bets was $4.8 billion
for the full year 2019, versus an operating loss of $3.4 billion in 2018. Let me conclude with a few observations on
the quarter and our longer-term outlook. Based on the strength of the US dollar to
date relative to the first quarter of last year, we expect continued FX headwinds again
in the first quarter of 2020. With our expanded revenue disclosures this
quarter, I’ll talk about the revenue and investment outlook for each of these newly
disclosed component parts. First, with respect to Search and other advertising,
although we don’t report Search revenues on a fixed FX basis, the delta between fixed
& floating growth rates at the Alphabet level is a good proxy for the effect on Search revenues,
or a headwind of approximately 2 percentage points in 2019. At our scale, we are pleased with our rate
of growth for 2019 and see ample opportunity going forward. What’s exciting for us as we look ahead
at Search and other Google properties, is the ongoing opportunity to support users and
advertisers with new ads experiences and improved measurement. Second, with respect to YouTube advertising,
at a year on year growth rate of more than 30% in the fourth quarter, we’re pleased
with the ongoing strength and opportunity at YouTube. We see substantial continuing opportunity
in direct response as well as with brand advertisers. As Sundar shared earlier, the non-advertising
services at YouTube, mainly from subscriptions, reached a $3 billion revenue run rate in the
fourth quarter. We continue to invest across YouTube to grow
over the long-term. In the ad-supported portion of YouTube, we
pay out a majority of revenues to our creators, reflected in our content acquisition costs. On top of that there are other expenses, including
infrastructure and networking costs, as well as the costs of our content responsibility
efforts to keep YouTube safe for users, creators and advertisers. We’re also investing meaningfully to grow
our subscriptions, which have higher content acquisition cost ratios. Turning next to Google Cloud, we are very
confident that there is an enormous opportunity here that plays to our core strengths. We’re pleased with the growth trajectory
of GCP — which we see in customer momentum, the growing size of the average contract and
of course, revenues. The traction we’re having with large customers
who are making multi-year commitments with us is reflected in our backlog, which ended
the year at $11.4 billion, substantially all of which relates to Google Cloud. Given our position as a challenger, we’re
investing aggressively, focused on building out our go-to-market capabilities, executing
against our product roadmap and extending the global footprint of our infrastructure,
focused on 21 markets and 6 industries. In terms of Hardware, as Sundar noted in his
opening remarks, we remain focused on the long-term opportunity with ambient computing. We believe our strengths in AI and software
give us an advantage in providing seamless experiences to users wherever they are across
multiple surfaces. We have been investing heavily in developing
our capabilities in hardware engineering, as well as building out supply and physical
distribution chains and we’ve created a multi-billion dollar revenue business in the
past three years. We’re looking forward to our acquisition
of Fitbit, which will add strong capabilities in Wearables and advance our vision of ambient
computing for the Android ecosystem. As we look at the near term product roadmap,
we continue to execute at a measured pace. In Other Bets, we are sharpening our focus
on the metrics and milestones against which capital allocation is determined and we continue
to assess where external capital is additive to governance and execution. I’ll now turn to the investments we are
making in headcount and in capex to support the growth opportunities we see across Alphabet. With respect to headcount, in 2019, Alphabet
headcount grew by 20%, reflecting investment in key areas such as Cloud. Overall, we expect the growth rate of headcount
to be slightly higher in 2020 due to the combined impact of investment in priority areas, plus
the decision to move certain vendor functions in-house, as well as from the planned impact
of the Fitbit acquisition. On SBC, as a reminder, our full year equity
refresh grants are made to employees during the first quarter of 2020 and you will see
the step-up in our first quarter results. In terms of Capex, in 2020, we intend to increase
our investment in both Technical Infrastructure and office facilities vs. 2019. Within Technical Infrastructure, the investments
in particular support ongoing demand for Machine Learning across our business, as well as for
Cloud, Search, Ads and YouTube. Relative to 2019, we anticipate relatively
more spend on servers than on data center construction. At this scale of investment, we remain very
focused on driving efficiency through fleet optimization and tight management of our supply
chain. Finally, on capital returns, in the fourth
quarter, we repurchased $6.1 billion of shares, which was more than double the amount of repurchase
in the fourth quarter of 2018. As of year end, we had $21 billion remaining
in the program and are focused on executing on the remaining authorization at a pace that
is at least consistent with what you saw in the fourth quarter. In conclusion, we remain very confident about
the opportunities across Alphabet and in our ability to continue to deliver at the steady
pace we have shown. Sundar and I will now take your questions. Candice (Operator): Thank you. As a reminder, to ask a question, you will
need to press star and then 1 on your telephone. To withdraw your question, please press the
pound key. To prevent any background noise, we ask that
you please mute your line once your question has been stated. And our first question comes from Heather
Bellini from Goldman Sachs. Your line is now open. Heather Bellini (Goldman Sachs): Hi. Thank you very much, Sundar and Ruth. And I guess — I’m sure we’re going to hear
this a million times tonight. But thank you so much for the enhanced disclosure. I think this is the best Google call — or
Alphabet call I’ve been on since I covered the company. So thank you, again. You’ve given us a lot of stuff here. I just wanted to focus a little bit on GCP
and the comments that you made. Either if you want to think about this for
Google Cloud collectively or just for GCP, just given the revenue run rate that you’re
at, how do we think about the gross margin profile of this business? Is it fair to look at some of the other Cloud
players when they were disclosing similar run rates to get a sense of what their gross
margins were? Or is there a reason why your business might
look slightly different? Thank you so much again. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: Thank you for those comments. So, first and foremost, we’re obviously really
pleased with the momentum here. GCP had fantastic revenue momentum in the
fourth quarter and, as we noted, is growing at a meaningfully higher pace than Google
Cloud overall. In terms of your margin question, you know,
look, I think our view is obviously the competitive dynamics in the Cloud market are very different
today. We are investing aggressively, given the opportunity
which I tried to make clear in opening comments. Given the opportunity we see and the momentum
we’re having, we’ve accelerated our investment in our go-to-market team. And as we’ve talked about before, we’ve set
a goal to triple the size of the sales force. We’re also focused on building out our product
roadmap and extending the global footprint of our infrastructure. And I’ll leave the forecasting to you. Heather Bellini (Goldman Sachs): Thank you. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Eric Sheridan
from UBS. Your line is now open. Eric Sheridan (UBS): Thanks so much. Maybe two parts, if I can. Sundar, for you first. A lot of innovation the company put on display
over the past year. Ruth talked in her sort of forward commentary
section about sustainability of growth and outperformance going forward. What are you most excited about when you see
the company trying to align what improves consumer utility along with what continues
to drive growth in the various segments of the business? That would be number one. And, two, Ruth, maybe for you, you had talked
about variability of revenue last quarter going into Q4. Unless I missed it, I don’t think you used
the same word again in Q4. What were you expecting in terms of variability
in Q4? And any color you could give on how that played
out or how we should be thinking about variability of revenue going forward? Thanks so much. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: Eric, I think overall I presume you mean across everything we do. And if that’s the case — I mean, the trends
we are seeing — and you — we have been investing on it for a while, but applying it and actually
driving use cases to users. So, for example, using AI to dramatically
improve natural language processing to make 10% of our Search results better is a kind
of opportunity I’m excited by. When I look at — we do see a lot of commercial
experiences across our properties, be it Search or YouTube, and the opportunity to create
a better experience there and, hence, bring more value to our users. That’s something which we see as a big opportunity. And across our businesses, be it YouTube,
Cloud, Play, or Hardware, in addition to Search, we are seeing strength in a lot of these areas. And we share a common technological approach
across all of them. And so that gives us a synergistic way to
approach these areas as well. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: And then on your second question, at our scale, we’re pleased with the rate
of growth in 2019 here in Search and our Ads business overall. We do see ample opportunity ahead. When we talk about variability of revenue,
the way we’ve talked about it in the past very much holds true, which is we’re — we
don’t manage for any particular quarter. We manage focused on what’s in the best — best
for users and with a lot of testing that goes around it. And so really the point is there will be variability. And we’re focused on the continued long-term
opportunity, and we do see that opportunity — the Ads opportunity to be significant. Apart from the secular shift to digital, we
continue to be very focused on the benefit from better measurement, better ad delivery,
better user experience. Our view is that all helps grow the addressable
market, but there will be variability over time because we are very focused on what’s
in the right long-term interest. Eric Sheridan (UBS): Thank you. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Doug Anmuth
from JP Morgan. Your line is now open. Doug Anmuth (JP Morgan): Great. Thanks for taking the questions. One for Sundar and one for Ruth. Sundar, first, just hoping you could talk
more about Google Cloud. Great to see the $10 billion run rate. Just curious if you can help gauge the progress
over the past year. Where do you think the biggest areas of differentiation
lie in an increasingly competitive space? And then, Ruth, can you just give some of
your latest thoughts on balancing growth and profitability across the Google segment and
Other Bets? And as you enter this year, do you see additional
opportunities to drive increased profitability without impacting the long-term potential
of the businesses? Thanks. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: Doug, on Cloud, I think maybe a few thoughts on some of the progress
we made last year and talk about the differentiation, which you asked about as well. Definitely, under Thomas’s leadership, I think
we have clearly focused on six industry verticals across 21 markets, so doubling down on those
efforts, bringing in a lot of new products and compliance certifications, so effectively
expanding the TAM which we serve. Ruth mentioned the team is on track to triple
our sales force in three years, including bringing in a number of senior strategic hires
and supplementing it with the channel partnership program. I think the progress I’ve seen in our customer
focus with our customer success organization and the contracting framework have all been
great progress for us. Overall, every time we are in, especially
one of these larger deals, they are effectively looking for a technology partner. So differentiation is not just what we bring
to table in terms of Cloud, where we have differentiated capabilities, but in many cases
it’s what we bring as Google, so if you take an area like healthcare, all the investments
we are making in healthcare across Google and in some cases Alphabet. If you look at Sabre, the partnership we can
bring to them across our experience working in travel verticals as well. So I think — and over time, I also think
the AI-based industry-specific solutions we are working on will end up being a differentiating
factor as well. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: And in terms of your second question, investing for growth and how we balance growth
and profitability, the approach to capital allocation and the pace of investing continues
to be guided by the same three drivers that we’ve talked about previously. First, and most important, is investing to
support the long-term earnings growth and the opportunities that we see there. Second, we do remain focused on optimizing
investments within each product area. And then, third, as we talked about on prior
calls, is investing to support operational excellence. And that includes things like driving efficiencies
in our technical infrastructure, which I spoke about. When we look at the biggest investment areas
within Google, we — as we’ve talked about already on this call — continue to be focused
on investing to support the growth that we see. It starts with Search, while also investing
to build new businesses. And we’ve talked about a couple of them already
today. Cloud is clearly an area where we’re investing
aggressively. In Hardware, we’ve been investing heavily
by developing our capabilities in hardware engineering, as well as building out supply
and physical distribution chains. And then in YouTube, as I mentioned in opening
comments, we do continue to build out our subscription services. It’s still in the early days there, and we’re
making a sizable investment to build it out, taking a long-term view here. So we are leaning into investing for long-term
growth. That’s been a core principle here and remains
such, while looking at where can we optimize within portfolios and where can operational
efficiencies be additive. Doug Anmuth (JP Morgan): Great. Thank you, both. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Brian Nowak
from Morgan Stanley. Your line is now open. Brian Nowak (Morgan Stanley): Thanks for taking
my question. I have two. Sundar, I thought your 2020 focal points were
really helpful, creating the most helpful products for everyone and then the most trusted
experience for users. I was curious to kind of focus in those comments
on payments and YouTube. You’ve had a lot of payment strategies over
the last couple years. So talk about what types of investments or
products you think you need to really remove friction and drive better payment adoption. And then on the YouTube side, if you sort
of look at how people are using YouTube now from an engagement perspective, what types
of changes do you foresee you need to make in order to really make it a more helpful
product to drive engagement even higher on the YouTube platform? Thanks. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: Brian, thanks. On the payments side, clearly, I spoke earlier
about the kind of experiences people see across our properties, including people do come with
an intent to discover, learn and commercially engage as well. And when they’re looking to transact, payments
ends up playing a critical role. So the less friction you have, it tends to
work better. So we have been really focused on doing that
and getting more of our users set up in the right state. We’ve had a lot of traction with our payments
product over the past 18 months. We had a tremendously successful launch in
India from which we learned a lot of features, and we’re bringing that and we’re revamping
our payments products globally. And so I’m excited about that rollout, which
is coming up in 2020. I think that will make the experience better. On the YouTube side, I guess your question
is about how are users engaging with the product. Overall, all our user metrics are very strong. They’re global in nature. And increasingly we see newer verticals beginning
to grow as well. So YouTube is working horizontally well at
scale. And for us it’s making sure as an ecosystem
it works better so that the content there, the experiences there are improving. We take our content responsibility work seriously,
which makes more content creators engage and makes it a more valuable product for advertisers
as well. But also supplementing the content you see
there with other types of accessorizing things, be it merchandising, ticket sales. When we make it contextually relevant, what
we have done in Search and Search Ads over time, if we can bring that to YouTube and
we see an opportunity, I think that sets us up well for the long-term there. Brian Nowak (Morgan Stanley): Great, thanks. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Brent Thill
from Jefferies. Your line is now open. Brent Thill (Jefferies): Thanks. Ruth, in North America, was there anything
that was abnormally unusual? Facebook had cited some weakness in North
America. It looks like your North America number was
relatively weak versus the last four years. Was there any anomaly that we should be aware
of? Thank you. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: Thanks for that. So the regional breakdown also reflects product
mix within regions. The U.S. year-on-year growth rate does reflect
a decline in Hardware revenues relative to what was a fairly strong Hardware revenue
growth rate in 4Q’18. And not much more to call out than that. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Stephen Ju
from Credit Suisse. Your line is now open. Stephen Ju (Credit Suisse): Thank you. So, Sundar, I guess some of the more cross-product
line synergies are showing up in an integrated software and hardware effort with stuff like
the Pixel. But you’ve come up through the ranks at Google,
so you are undoubtedly pretty sensitive to the various interests across various teams. But we’re wondering what you may be looking
to do to break down, I guess, what might have been more of a siloed effort in Google’s history. Thanks. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: You know, I think — I spoke about execution at scale and so for
us that means you have these product areas which are focused on their users. But we are setting up teams which cut across
all these areas and make sure they can bring the synergies and work at scale. So last year we set up a core infrastructure
team, which looks at things like how does the user journey work across. What is a shared infrastructure engineers
can use so that we don’t reinvent the wheel in multiple areas? How can we commonly deploy AI across all these
products? So I think that’s been a good example of bringing
teams together. Another big area where we invested like that
to break down silos is our partnerships. We set up a global partnerships team. And our ability to bring a common Google perspective
to our big global partners, it’s helped us strike many new partnerships. I mentioned Activision Blizzard just as an
example. And they work and they are very synergistic
with Cloud as well, to my point earlier. When people engage with us on Cloud, they’re
looking for — they’re interested in a bigger digital transformation across the board. Google Assistant is a great example of, because
we are focused on the user, and the experience cuts across several of our product areas — has
been a great mechanism by which we can break down silos as well. But it’s a great question, and I spend a lot
of time on it. Stephen Ju (Credit Suisse): Thank you. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Dan Salmon
from BMO Capital Markets. Your line is now open. Dan Salmon (BMO): Hi. Good afternoon, everyone. I had two questions, one clarifying, one for
Ruth, and then maybe a big-picture one for Sundar. Ruth, you distinguished between the growth
of brand advertising and direct response on YouTube. Those comments were very clear. I just wanted to follow up and ask you how
you make that distinction between brand and direct response. Is it a different pricing model? Is it the presence of an ad revenue share
with a creator or both? I’d just be curious on that distinction. And then to Sundar, the big-picture one, we
have heard others in the ecosystem talk about headwinds from targeting growing. Certainly there are regulatory changes that
also apply to you. You’ve made some changes to various Google
advertising platforms; and, of course, you’re an owner of two of the largest, most important
platforms in Chrome and the Android operating system. I could ask you a billion things on that last
one. But what I’d really like to ask is the big-picture
question: If we roll up these sort of things for your total advertising business, how important
are changes here to your top-line growth? Are you seeing notable headwinds from these
types of changes in the ecosystem as well? Thanks. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: So on the first one, we have, again, this quarter talked about brand and
direct response. And as we’ve talked about in prior quarters,
brand is growing at a healthy pace and remains the largest component of YouTube Ads. Direct response is growing — continues to
grow at a very substantial growth. The distinction here is the formats for — in
direct response, we’re letting brands insert a tailored call to action in a video ad, such
as signing up for a newsletter or scheduling an appointment or downloading an app or booking
a trip, things of those sort. That’s why it’s the direct response category. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: And on the broader questions about headwinds, it’s something we always
need to take a look at. We try to stay focused on users and our partners,
and we realize for these things to scale you need to make sure the ecosystem is working
well. And so we are engaged in these issues, and
we anticipate and structurally work on them early on. So it’s how we broadly approach these things. And so there’s nothing notable to call out,
other than there will be continued changes in these ecosystems, and our ability to anticipate
and adapt is key to the years ahead. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Justin Post
from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Your line is now open. Justin Post (Bank of America Merrill Lynch):
Great. Thank you. I’d like to ask a couple of bigger-picture
things on the new disclosures. So, first, on YouTube monetization, assuming
you have about 2 billion users, it’s about $7 or $8 per user. Just wondering how you feel about that monetization
level, given all the usage you’re seeing there. And is there significant room to raise that
when you compare it to other social networks? And then secondly on the cloud backlog, very
strong number, $11.4, versus our IaaS/PaaS revenue rates. Just wondering about how strong the new deals
have been that you’ve signed the last six months. Sounds like really good traction there. And then the profitability of these deals,
how you feel about that. Thank you. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: On the question around YouTube, I do think there is a lot of opportunity
ahead. You’re right, it’s a platform working at scale. I think Ruth spoke a little bit about brand
and direct response. I think direct response is a huge growth area
for us. And increasingly, I think when you look at
the fact that people are consuming a lot of goods and services as part of their experience
in YouTube, how can we create better commerce experiences also is a big opportunity for
us. So looking across, I think there is more room
— significantly more room over the mid- to long-term on monetization levels. And so I think we see that as a big opportunity
and are investing for it. On Cloud, definitely, we are increasingly
doing much larger deals. And these deals can sometimes span beyond
Cloud as well, and they can touch many areas. So as an example, if you’re an automotive
company, we can be talking to you across Cloud, Android Auto, in some cases Waymo, and they
all happen to be strong platform partners on the advertising side as well. So these are large deals, and we do want to
build these in a sustainable way so that we can serve the partner well. And so profitability has been something we’re
very focused on as well. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: And just to add a little more to that, the $11.4 billion backlog number
is — for us we view it as a way to quantify the traction that we’re having. And as you know well, in the Enterprise space,
these tend to grow over time and profitability as such comes across the cohorts. However, the point that we were trying to
make and have made a couple of times here on the call is that we are investing aggressively
in Cloud overall, given the opportunity that we see and the momentum we’re having, and
we’ll continue to do so. Justin Post (Bank of America Merrill Lynch):
Thank you. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Youssef Squali
from Suntrust. Your line is now open. Youssef Squali (SunTrust): Okay. Great. Thank you. Two quick ones. First, Ruth, has the shortened holiday season
had much of an impact on your Search business in North America? And then, Sundar, as you talk about automation
machine learning, AI, how much of advertisers’ Search spend is now on auto bidding? And how do you think Smart Bidding is affecting
spending growth and pricing? Thank you. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: So on the holiday shopping season, there’s really nothing to highlight there. What we find is there are seasonal puts and
takes in any given period. So really nothing to note. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: I don’t have specific numbers to add here. But effectively we do see significant traction
in these areas, and advertisers are leveraging the features we have — we are bringing it
here, be it Smart Bidding, auto bidding. There’s tremendous traction with our advertisers
here. Youssef Squali (SunTrust): Thank you. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Kevin Rippey
from Evercore. Your line is now open. Kevin Rippey (Evercore ISI): Hi. Thanks for taking the question. This is primarily for Sundar. As you think about the risk profile of some
of your businesses like Waymo, like Verily in healthcare. How do you manage those risks which likely
— in a scenario where autonomous cars have some accident or something like that, having
those in-house and the perhaps brand damage that could do to Google versus what you could
do if those were entirely separate enterprises? I know they are all held under the Alphabet
umbrella, but just sort of big picture, how you think about managing that risk over time? Thank you. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: Thanks, Kevin. We are — as I spoke earlier in the remarks,
part of the reason we are making sure we are investing in the proper governance structures,
so that we don’t try to scale as a management across these important areas. Some of these are — have regulatory aspects
to it. We are — for some of these Bets as well — and
Verily is a great example — we’ve brought in outside investors — people with expertise,
and setting up proper board structures and governance for these. So I think those all help, and we’ll continue
to evaluate these on a periodic basis and bring that rigor and discipline. But I do think Alphabet gives us a more flexible
framework, if you will, to both have the independence when we need, but where we can have a common,
shared synergies like our AI investments, bring that to bear as well. Kevin Rippey (Evercore ISI): Thanks. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Mark Mahaney
from RBC. Your line is now open. Benjamin Wheeler (RBC): Hi. This is Ben on for Mark. Thanks for taking the question. Ruth, I just kind of want to double click
on something you said before, in terms of Other Bets, kind of like a sharpening focus
on the asset — the allocation there. Was that kind of — is that kind of signaling
more of the same, or is that kind of potentially maybe prioritizing investments more towards,
like, share buybacks and stuff like that as opposed to — like basically I’m trying to
ask: Should we expect greater rationalization in the Other Bets segment going forward, or
is it more of the same? Thanks a lot. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: So what I was saying is that when we look at the Other Bets and execution, we’ve
talked over time about measuring them against specific metrics and milestones, operating
business, technology, financial performance, and we — and we look at that as we calibrate
the pace of investment, the approach to investments. And we’re continuing to do that. We’re putting a sharper focus on, as Sundar
indicated, looking at — where does it make sense to work with external capital as we
did with Verily as an example. But the bigger point is, we continue to invest
for the long-term. And when we look at our capital return approach,
it’s very consistent with what we’ve talked about previously. The primary use of capital continues to be
to support long-term growth in Google and in Other Bets, and then it’s about strategic
investments and on top of that return of capital to shareholders. Benjamin Wheeler (RBC): Thank you. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our next question comes from Ross Sandler
from Barclays. Your line is now open. Ross Sandler (Barclays): Hi. Yeah, two questions. The Google segment margin looked really strong
in the fourth quarter. I think this is the first time that mix shift
actually helped you guys from a margin perspective. So, Ruth, can you just talk about how much
of that margin increase year-on-year was from the Hardware business dropping off versus
improving elsewhere? And then as you move forward, you mentioned
that headcount is going to accelerate in 2020. So is this an investment year, in your view,
or just kind of more of the steady kind of increase? And then the second question, on YouTube,
a lot of discussion here about direct response impact and the opportunity there. What percent of AdWords advertisers are buying
Search-only versus buying Search and YouTube at this stage? And it looks like from your new disclosure
that YouTube decelerated a little bit in the fourth quarter. Any color on what’s driving that relative
to the full year ’19 growth rate? Thank you. Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet
and Google: Okay. So taking the first part of that, in terms
of the operating margin in the fourth quarter, there were a number of discrete items in the
fourth quarter last year 2018. So that did result in a favorable Google op
inc year-on-year comparison for this year. And as you said, the other cost of sales does
reflect lower expenses related to Hardware in Q4 in particular versus last year. But I think the main point to leave you with
is that we do intend to continue to invest aggressively to support growth in the areas
that we have already talked about quite a bit on this call, in Search and Cloud and
Hardware and in YouTube. In terms of headcount, I tried to break it
out in my closing comments that it starts with those areas, putting headcount behind
the areas where we’re investing for the long-term. And then we have a couple of additional factors
that are somewhat expected to boost the year-on-year growth rate. One is bringing some support in-house that’s
opex neutral. And the other is the Fitbit acquisition. In terms of the third part of your question,
I’m just trying to recall it, the — in terms of the mix, I’m not sure there’s much to add
there. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And our final question comes from the line
of Colin Sebastian from Baird. Your line is now open. Colin Sebastian (Baird): Thank you. I guess first, just given the focus and new
leadership team in Commerce, was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about
the opportunity you see for innovation there at the transactional part of the funnel. And then as a quick follow-up, on the acceleration
in GCP, beyond the size of the deals, were there particular product areas like BigQuery
or something else worth calling out that might have inflected to drive that acceleration? Thank you. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of
Alphabet and Google: Great. On Commerce, I’m really excited Bill Ready
is here. He brings a lot of experience. And you mentioned the transactional part of
the funnel, and I think it’s an area where he brings a lot of experience, given his prior
work. But we definitely see opportunity to improve
in the overall user experience, in terms of how we present our results, the visual nature
of it, making that experience more delightful. And then people are interested in something,
how do you make it more seamless to complete the transaction and bringing in deep partnerships
with merchants and retailers to making that happen. So excited about the opportunity there. And that’s where we are investing. On GCP, we did see — it’s been a lot to do
with bringing to bear all the resources we have and engaging while on these deals. And the execution there has been great. And it’s definitely — we see strong traction
in data analytics. And so our strength there as a company is
definitely contributing significantly, as well as our overall leadership in AI. Colin Sebastian (Baird): Thank you. Candice (Operator): Thank you. And that concludes our question and answer
session for today. I’d like to turn the conference back over
to Ellen West for any further remarks. Ellen West, VP Investor Relations: Thanks,
everyone, for joining us today. We look forward to speaking with you again
on our first quarter 2020 conference call. Thank you and have a good evening. Candice (Operator): Ladies and gentlemen,
this concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for participating and you may now
disconnect.

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