Google's unorthodox press release raises questions

NEW YORK, April 15 (Reuters) - Google Inc GOOG.O unveiled its quarterly results in an unorthodox way on Thursday: The No. 1 Internet search company issued a three-line statement directing readers to its website for the full report.

Almost all major U.S. companies issue earnings and other key announcements via press releases on major business wires Business Wire, which is part of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.N, and PR Newswire, a division of United Business Media Plc UBM.L.

Google has recently used Business Wire for major announcements. Thursday’s statement was released on Toronto-based Marketwire.

The statement posed a brief obstacle for the media, analysts and others hungry for Google’s numbers. It may also suggest the company is headed down a road that could hurt companies that distribute press releases, and that some worry could disadvantage some investors.

"Google Inc has released its first quarter 2010 financial results. Please visit Google's investor relations website at to view the earnings release," the company said in the Thursday statement.

“Google intends to make future announcements regarding its financial performance exclusively through its investor relations website,” it added. [ID:nN15186317]

Google was delivering something called “notice and access” to investors. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires this, having ruled in 2008 that U.S. companies may use their websites to distribute market-sensitive information.

General Electric Co GE.N, Boeing Co BA.N and Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N have in recent years experimented with blogs to share news with investors. Google itself used its blog as a mouthpiece in its recent spat with China over Internet access.

However, some worry that this trend may harm individual and less-sophisticated investors who cannot access the blogs and websites as quickly as professionals. Others worry that not everyone will get the information.

Fewer than 10 public companies have adopted “notice and access,” said Scott Mozarsky, PRNewswire’s executive vice president of commercial operations. “Even if you’re Google, (the information) may get picked up fewer places, and it won’t get picked up in a timely manner,” he said.

The move could cut Google’s distribution costs, as well as the wires’ revenues. Representatives from Google, Business Wire, and Marketwire declined to provide immediate comment.

“I don’t think it’s a threat” to the industry, Mozarsky said. “The huge majority of the market has been very clear about the fact that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be adopting this practice,” he added.

“But it is indicative of the fact that Web disclosure is important as part of an integrated approach to disclosure.”

Google’s short statement wasn’t the only surprise on Thursday. Eric Schmidt, its chief executive, did not appear on the conference call with media and analysts, disappointing those looking for guidance from the top. (Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Richard Chang)


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