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Search teams

Business | Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have each amassed a $6 billion fortune

Issue: "Post-party election blues?," Nov. 6, 2004

While many dot-coms have crashed and burned, search engine leaders Google and Yahoo are hot commodities on Wall Street.

Google, which went public earlier this year, was worth $44 billion when its stock price topped $165 a share last week. In just six years, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have each amassed a $6 billion fortune from their Stanford dorm room project. Many of the company's 2,700 employees are now millionaires.

So what's Google's secret? It's not simply searching the internet for users, but consistently delivering new products that complement its powerful search engine.

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In the past few months, Google has added an e-mail application, as well as text-based ad links that relate to the content of each page. The company is currently testing a program that would store a copy of computer activities on a remote server, allowing users to easily recall anything they've ever seen on their computer screens.

These efforts continue to boost profits. In the third quarter, Google reported that its revenue doubled from last year, helping the company retain its foothold as the industry leader.

But Yahoo isn't far behind with revenues jumping 33 percent. The company has boosted e-mail storage capacity, acquired a pair of e-mail startups, and announced a partnership with Adobe Corporation.

Faster food

With new menu items and a new slogan, McDonald's has emerged from its prolonged slump. McDonald's recently announced a 42 percent jump in sales during the third quarter, marking the third straight quarterly increase.

The company added entree-sized salads to its menu last year, followed by several other items it says have been successful: McGriddles breakfast sandwiches, white-meat chicken nuggets, chicken strips, and healthier options such as fruit with Happy Meals.

The fast-food juggernaut attributes its turnaround to extended operating hours, higher-priced fare, the new "I'm lovin' it" campaign, and the ability to accept payments from customers using credit and debit cards.

How do cashless payments increase revenue? The biggest reason could be time, as in the old adage, "time is money." Chief financial officer Matthew Paull said it takes just four seconds for McDonald's to process a payment using a credit or debit card as compared to 15 seconds for cash.

There's no word, though, on whether a quicker transaction means the waiting time at the drive-through window will go any faster.

Balance Sheet

• Coca-Cola has agreed to change its sales practices in Europe as part of an antitrust settlement with the European Union. Coca-Cola controls nearly half of the European soft drink market.

• Continental Airlines has lost more than $16 million in the last three months and expects to report more losses in 2004 and 2005 unless conditions improve. The nation's fifth-largest airline said high fuel prices and government regulation contributed to the losses.

• After two months of declines, the National Association of Realtors reports that sales of previously owned homes rose in September to the third-highest level on record as low mortgage rates beckoned buyers.

• Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan doesn't believe that the record level of debt carried by American households is a serious threat to the U.S. economy. Mr. Greenspan said one factor that has pushed up debt levels is the number of Americans switching from renting to owning their home with record-low mortgage rates.

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