Google owner Alphabet overtakes Apple as world's most valuable firm

Red Letter Day for Google's Alphabet
Red Letter Day for Google's Alphabet

Google owner Alphabet has knocked fellow US tech giant Apple off its top spot to become the world's most valuable public company.

Alphabet posted a fourth-quarter profit of 4.9 billion US dollars (£3.4 billion) on Monday, up from 4.7 billion US dollars (£3.3 billion) a year ago.

The announcement sent its share price up as much as 9% in after-hours trading on Monday night.

It means Alphabet's market value stood at 555 billion US dollars (£386 billion), compared with Apple which is valued at 533 billion US dollars (£371 billion).

Though Apple reported record profits in its own financial results last week, the California-based firm predicted iPhone sales would decline for the first time in the device's history in the next quarter.

Google reorganised itself under Alphabet last October, and this set of results is the first time the group split itself out into its two major divisions.

Google holds its lucrative businesses such as digital ad sales, search engine and YouTube.

The rest of Alphabet is made up of the group's more experimental ventures such as self-driving cars and internet balloon programmes.

On an annual basis Alphabet's other businesses, which it labels Other Bets business, lost 3.6 billion US dollars (£2.5 billion) during the period.

Google's finance chief Ruth Porat hailed the "vibrancy of the business" during the announcement, with video-sharing site YouTube, as well as the widely used Google search engine, named as the core of the company's growth.

However, the continued rise of search and advertising could be down to rival Apple, one analyst has argued, suggesting that as more mobile users move to its iOS platform over Google's Android, Google actually benefits.

Richard Windsor, analyst for Edison Investment Research, said: "The greater usability of the iOS user experience when compared to that of Android means that an iOS device generates around double the traffic of an Android device at the same price point.

"Consequently, there is far more opportunity in iOS to target users with marketing, resulting in meaningfully higher revenues.

"Edison estimates that Google's revenue per user on iOS is more than double that on Android. Consequently, when the user shifts from Android to iOS, Google benefits in the short term."

Google is currently at the centre of a tax row in the UK after it agreed to pay £130 million in back-taxes that stretch back to 2005. The agreement was seen by some as too lenient for the internet giant.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid, in an interview with the BBC, said the settlement "wasn't a glorious moment".

The company will also give evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee on countering extremism on Tuesday alongside social network Facebook, which last week posted its own financial results, which included a revenue rise of more than 40% to £12.5 billion.