Kara Swisher

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Yahoo Beats Q4 Earnings Estimates on Flattish Revenue; Bought Back $1.45 Billion in Shares

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Yahoo reported its fourth-quarter earnings today, with earnings higher than expected, but with a continued flattish revenue.

The Silicon Valley Internet giant aid its non-GAAP net profits were 32 cents a share, compared to 25 cents in the same period a year ago. But GAAP net earnings per diluted share were 23 cents in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to 24 cents last year.

Shares jumped just above four percent in after-hours trading to above $21 a share, given Wall Street analysts were estimating a profit of 27 cents per share in Q4.

Net revenue, without traffic acquisition costs, was expected to be $1.21 billion. It was $1.22 billion and which is essentially flat from a year ago’s $1.17 billion. Search revenue was up nicely, while display sales declined.

Overall the results showed a non-sinking but none-too-powerful ship and not very impressive given almost every other Internet company grew revenue significantly in comparison. For example, Google reported last week that core revenue was up 21 percent in the quarter.

Still, up is up, even if it is not up that much. “I’m proud of Yahoo!’s 2012 and fourth quarter results. In 2012, Yahoo! exhibited revenue growth for the first time in 4 years, with revenue up 2 percent year-over-year,” said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in a statement.

In other words, she’ll take two percent, given the nearly persistent revenue declines of recent years. It is progress, of course, even if investors are looking for more robust increases ahead.

Also of note: Yahoo said it repurchased 79.6 million shares at an average price of $18.24 for $1.45 billion in the fourth quarter, which most definitely was one of the reasons for its recent stock run-up.

Yahoo did not release information on consumer engagement and traffic in the Q4 report, which it had done until Mayer took over. As AllThingsD.com had previously reported, most metrics in the quarter were down significantly over last year.

The fourth quarter was the first that was entirely under the new regime of Mayer, who arrive at Yahoo in July from Google.

She’s gotten a big break from Wall Street, which has sent Yahoo’s stock up in recent months on the hopes of her turnaround plans.

Last week, Mayer said the long-suffering Silicon Valley giant would be returning “back to its roots,” as part of an effort to finally turn it around. It’s actually part of a bigger plan which AllThingsD.com had reported on previously, to focus Yahoo on being a center of content discovery on the Web, across multiple devices, with wide-ranging and “very friendly” partnerships with other companies.

More to come at the 2 pm PT, conference call with Mayer, which I will be liveblogging as usual.

Until then, here’s the official press release and deck from Yahoo:

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work