Brazil at heart of Google's Latin America strategy

BUENOS AIRES Sat Mar 5, 2011 2:42am GMT

A man works on Google logo at an exhibition stand at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover, February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

A man works on Google logo at an exhibition stand at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover, February 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Tobias Schwarz

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Brazil is on the way to becoming Google Inc's sixth-largest global market, Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said on Friday as the company opens new offices in the fast-growing Latin American region.

The world's No. 1 Internet search company saw its revenue in the region surge last year on the back of brisk economic growth, with countries showing growth of 50 percent to 100 percent last year.

"That means you're almost doubling (revenue) every year," Schmidt told Reuters in the company's offices in Buenos Aires. "That's a lot due to the effect of the economic recovery from a global recession, but also to the development of broadband and the development of the electronic commerce."

Schmidt will be replaced as CEO in April by Google co-founder Larry Page, a move to make the company more nimble at a time when competition heats up with fast-growing rivals like Facebook.

Latin America accounts for 2 percent to 3 percent of the California-based company's revenue, which totalled $29.3 billion (18 billion pounds) last year, mostly from its business in the United States and Europe.

But Schmidt said the region's relatively modest share should grow fast.

"It will become a much larger percentage very quickly. Brazil is, for example, already on its way to becoming our sixth-largest country in revenue," he said.

Google has about 500 employees in Latin America, where it has opened new premises in Chile, Colombia and Peru.

"Latin American is our fastest-growing region in the world. You can see it everywhere," Schmidt said, highlighting the company's Orkut social network -- one of Brazil's most-visited websites.

"I disagree that the only thing Google can do in social networking would be buying Twitter simply by the observation we have a very successful social network in Brazil, Orkut, which is growing and expanding," Schmidt said when asked if Google had held takeover talks with the microblogging site.

While Google has dominated Internet search for a decade, it has struggled to find its footing in social networking, with a new crop of Web companies including Facebook and Twitter stealing Web traffic and engineering talent.

Meanwhile, Schmidt said Google was not too anxious to see YouTube showing a profit, defending the scale of investments in its online video site.

"Profitability is not that important for us. For YouTube, what's really important is to build the great business for the partners," he said, adding that YouTube remained "almost profitable."

(Editing by Richard Chang)