Alphabet - the parent company of Google - made a net profit of almost $9 billion in the last three months of 2018, after revenues rose more than 21%.

For the 12 months to the end of December, Alphabet's profit hit $30.7 billion. However costs were way up at the firm, which pushed the company's shares lower in after market trade on Wall Street. 

"If you look back, what you see with Alphabet's management is that they're less concerned with quarter on quarter, and are much more interested in the long-term trajectory of the business," said Aidan Donnelly, head of equities at Davy. 

"They will literally spend money on investment in research and development and capital expenditure on a quarter-on-quarter basis if they see it ultimately benefitting the business in the long-term," he said. 

"Revenue is up nearly 50% in two years and that's really due to the investments it made in the last four or five years, in things like machine learning and artificial intelligence. They don't tend to waste money, they tend to spend it very, very cleverly and it ultimately leads to the benefit of the business," the analyst said. 


Some of that investment has also helped Alphabet to begin to wean itself off online ads, though that still makes up the vast bulk of the company's revenue. "They have about $6.5 billion last quarter from what they call 'other revenue' and that's things like their cloud business, Nest - the company's home devices business, Google Play and Pixel hardware," he said. 

"These were all investments made over the last five to seven years and everybody asked at that stage 'what are you doing spending money on that when the ad search business is so good?'

"They saw that the ad revenue would not last forever and they need to widen the base that they ultimately make their money off," Mr Donnelly said. 

Alphabet is the last of the so-called FAANGs - Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google - to report quarterly results and it brings us about half way through results season as a whole. 

Mr Donnelly said the trend so far is to the positive in terms of beating forecasts - though the bar has been set relatively low in terms of what is to come.

"In general there's been a reasonably large percentage of companies that have beaten expectations," he said. "In the tech sector you've probably seen about 90% of companies that have beaten.

"Despite that forecasts have actually come down a little over that same period - and what's probably more important is what companies are saying in terms of their guidance, and in that case we have seen a little bit of disappointment there," Aidan Donnelly said 

"With everything that's going on - in terms of the US government shutdown, trade talks between China and the US - management are saying that there's no need to put our head above the parapet there, we'll keep nice and conservative, punch in early numbers and see how the year pans out," he added.