Google's chief executive has defended a 20% slump in profits on a day when the internet giant saw $22bn wiped off its share value because of a printer's error.

Shares in the search engine went into free fall - tumbling 9% before trading was suspended - after Google's financial printers accidentally sent out a draft release of the company's surprisingly disappointing third-quarter profit and revenue figures.

Shares rallied temporarily before eventually closing down 7.95%. The release of the Q3 2012 earnings had been due for after the markets in New York closed.

ITV News' Economics Editor Richard Edgar reports:

Traders reacted in shock upon prematurely learning that Google's profits had fallen 20% on the previous year to $2.18bn (£1.35bn).

It amounted to $9.03 a share, below analyst estimates of $10.65. The company's revenue rose to $11.3bn, yet still fell below forecasts of $11.8bn.

Google said its printer RR Donnelley was to blame for the botched release of the figures, saying it filed a draft of the earnings statement without authorisation this morning.

The printer firm confirmed it was "investigating" the matter.

Traders were alerted that the press release had been issued ahead of schedule, with the document saying "Pending Larry Quote" in its second line, in reference to Google chief executive Larry Page, whose reaction was due to be added before the figures went public.

The gaffe quickly spawned a tribute account on Twitter, called Pending Larry, which was happy to mock Google's misery.

The real Mr Page later put a brave face on the dramatic drop.

At a conference call, which the Google CEO began with an apology for the "scramble earlier today," he said the Q3 results were "not bad for a teenager."

"We had a strong quarter and I'm really happy with our business," he said.

"It's a truly exciting time to be at Google," Mr Page insisted, adding: "Every day, I wake up and I'm delighted that our opportunities keep growing."