Google earnings up 17% on strong ad revenue

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Search giant Google reported fourth quarter profits of $3.38bn (£2.05bn), up 17% from a year earlier, buoyed by stronger advertising revenue.

"We ended 2013 with another great quarter of momentum and growth," said Google chief executive Larry Page in a statement.

The firm also announced a stock split will take place on 2 April.

The company reported a widening loss of $384m in its Motorola Mobility unit, compared to $152m in 2012.

Google announced the surprise sale of that business late on Wednesday to Chinese computer maker Lenovo for $2.91bn.

News of the deal caused Google shares to jump on Thursday, because the unit had long been seen as a drag on the firm's profits.

Ad woes

The stock split has been in discussion for three years, because shareholders were worried it would unfairly benefit co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

In the split, a new class of "C" shares will be created - but with no voting power - compared to the current class "A" shares.

Shares in Google remained flat after the earnings were released, but are up more than 50% for the year.

Although Google remains the number one digital advertising seller, handily beating out rivals Facebook and Yahoo, the firm has struggled to raise its prices for mobile advertising.

Advertisers have so far been unwilling to pay more for mobile adverts compared to the traditional desktop offerings.

Overall, Google increased its number of paid clicks by 31%, but the company's average cost-per-click for the fourth quarter was down 11%.

That partially indicates that the firm is selling more mobile ads, but it is not being offset by a rise in mobile rates.

Unlike in prior quarters, Mr Page was not on hand to discuss earnings in a conference call with analysts. He has previously said it was not the best use of his time.

Mr Page has been suffering from a chronic vocal chord issue.

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