Alphabet investments including UiPath propel quarterly profit to US$17.9b

Alphabet just reported its most profitable quarter ever, thanks in part to a booming IPO market and surging valuations for tech start-ups, CNBC reports.

In its first-quarter earnings report on Tuesday, Google’s parent company disclosed a net gain on equity investments of US$4.75 billion, representing 22 percent of Alphabet’s pre-tax income. Net income jumped over 160 percent to US$17.9 billion, topping the prior record of US$15.2 billion in the fourth quarter.

In addition to its dominant position in search and a growing cloud business, Alphabet has become a force in venture capital in recent years, using its hefty balance sheet to take stakes in companies of all sizes across internet and software as well as other industries where tech is playing a growing role. The company invests in start-ups through GV (formerly Google Ventures), and in later-stage and pre-IPO companies through CapitalG (formerly Google Capital).

Overall, the value of certain equity securities grew US$4.84 billion during the quarter, offset by a loss of US$86 million on other securities, creating a net gain of US$4.75 billion.

Alphabet didn’t specify in its earnings report which deals produced the gains, saying only that the figure includes “gains and losses, unrealized and realized, on equity investments that we hold.”

Equity investment gains are recorded in the other income and expense section of its report.

A company spokesperson said in an e-mail that Alphabet doesn’t break out the numbers by company.

The biggest single contributor was likely UiPath, the developer of automation software that went public earlier this month and is now valued at around US$40 billion.

CapitalG owns 30.5 million shares in UiPath, worth US$2.3 billion as of Tuesday’s close.

While UiPath’s IPO didn’t take place until the second quarter, the company raised a pre-IPO round at a US$35 billion valuation in February, which was up from just over US$10 billion in mid-2020. At that time, Alphabet’s stake was worth about $1.9 billion, based on the share price that UiPath disclosed in its prospectus.

Alphabet doesn’t have to wait for an IPO or acquisition to mark up an investment in its income statement.

The company said in its annual financial filing for 2020 that for non-marketable holdings, it relies on “various valuation methodologies” to make “upward and downward adjustments to the carrying value of our equity securities as a result of observable price changes.”

Similarly, payments company Stripe raised a financing round in March at a whopping US$95 billion valuation. That’s up about ten-fold from CapitalG’s investment in 2016, when it co-led a US$150 million investment in Stripe.

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