Google has stressed it wants to continue to have a strong presence in the Chinese market, following its threats last week to pull out of the country altogether, amid security concerns and a sweeping cyber attack.
CEO Eric Schmidt spoke to analysts after the Q4 results were announced, saying Google remains “quite committed to being in China.” But he reiterated that it would stop censoring its search results there, in “a reasonably short time from now. We like the Chinese people and our Chinese employees. We like the business opportunities there and we’d like to do that on somewhat different terms than we have.”
Meanwhile, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has called on authorities in Beijing to investigate the recent cyber attacks on Google. She said all companies should refuse to support “politically motivated censorship”.
Google claimed hackers attempted to infiltrate software coding and access email accounts of human rights campaigners.
But Chinese vice-foreign minister He Yafei reportedly told state news agency Xinhua that the row between the state and Google should not be “over-interpreted”.
In response to the hacker attacks, Microsoft yesterday released a “critical” patch, designed to protect Internet Explorer users from cyber attacks similar to those reportedly directed at Google’s Chinese operations.
Researchers from security specialist Symantec said other hackers had begun to exploit the flaw, and Microsoft called for users to apply it as soon as possible.
Google has beat Wall Street expectations with strong Q4 results on the back of advertising growth. Profits more than quadrupled to $1.97bn (Q4 2008: $382m) on revenues up 17% year-on-year to $6.67bn.
Schmidt hailed the latest figures, which were driven by a trend towards online spending ahead of a busy holiday period, saying they were a strong end to what he called “a rollercoaster year by any measure.” The CEO added that Google was likely to make at least one acquisition per month in 2010.
Despite its strong quarterly results, Google shares fell 4.3% in after-hours trading with the Wall Street Journal suggesting investors had hoped for even stronger figures. A single Google share is now worth $558.