Amazon (AMZN) stock has continued to turn heads in 2013, both thanks to ambitious plans and impressive stock growth. Since Jan. 1, shares of AMZN stock have climbed around 55% — more than double the broader market’s climb.
Yet while the-commerce king boasts solid stock gains and is set to record roughly $75 billion in revenue this fiscal year, it’s on track for hardly any profits.
AMZN stock investors seem to be banking on continued growth as the company maintains its online sales dominance and branches out into other areas including streaming video, web services, packaged goods, groceries and maybe even drone delivery.
But it remains to be seen whether Amazon stock holders will continue to tolerate potential in the place of actual earnings.
So is AMZN stock a smart buy heading into the new year? We asked a few InvestorPlace experts to weigh in. Read on to find out what they think about Amazon — not as an innovator, but as an investment.
Jeff Bezos Will Keep Amazon Stock Going
By Tom Taulli
Amazon (AMZN) has gained over 650% in the last five years. And while I do not expect a repeat performance over the next half-decade, I would not be surprised if AMZN stock keeps generating nice gains.
Jeff Bezos is simply a battle-hardened tech legend who has a tremendous strategic sense of megatrends. Let’s face it, his move into cloud computing was genius and will result in long-term growth. The Amazon Kindle e-reader was another great investment, which should also have a large payoff. Oh, and e-commerce still has a long way to run as well, much to the consternation of companies like Walmart (WMT), Staples (SPLS) and Best Buy (BBY).
Granted, the valuation of AMZN stock seems out-of-whack. But when it comes to companies that are leaders in their categories, this is generally the case. During their heyday, Microsoft (MSFT) and Cisco (CSCO) were able to fetch crazy valuations too.
But the most important thing is Bezos realizes that “only the paranoid survive.” This means he must be intense on the competition — and also must invest heavily in innovation. If not, a tech company can easily fail, such as we’ve seen with BlackBerry (BBRY). It can be brutal.
So far, Bezos and AMZN are showing no signs of slipping. In other words, it’s a good bet he’ll find new opportunities for growth, which should continue to fuel the Amazon stock price.
Buy AMZN Stock, But Only a Big Pullback
By Jeff Reeves
Editor, InvestorPlace.com and The Slant
Betting against Jeff Bezos and Amazon (AMZN) is a fool’s errand. The stock has soared 650% in the last five years and 55% YTD in 2013. But if the question is whether to buy Amazon stock or an alternative, I advise looking elsewhere.
I simply don’t trust this stock at these levels — and not because of the forward P/E of 140. It’s more about the sentiment that profits are inevitable, and the reality that those profits may be harder to come by.
Consider Amazon spent about $3.8 billion on capex in 2012, a is pacing about the same number — perhaps even more — for 2013. Perhaps this kind of cash burn on research and expansion is “normal,” something that would be uncomfortable for investors betting on simply rolling that money over into the earnings column
Consider much of the spending at Amazon isn’t actually to create margins but just to maintain its model – more data centers to deal with e-commerce, content downloads and its Web Services division, more subsidized Kindles to feed content sales via e-books and video, more distribution centers to meet the expectation of prompt delivery for most item. That’s all revenue growth — NOT profit growth.
Lastly, consider Tesla (TSLA) — a red hot momentum stock that continues to see big success, but recently took a 30% tumble in two weeks this fall. Was it because Tesla is going bankrupt? Hardly… it was simply because Tesla showed it couldn’t live up to the magical fairy tale that Wall Street’s hype machine had created, and expectations had to get more realistic.
For the record, I bought Tesla stock on the pullback because I believe in the long-term prospects of the company. And I would buy Amazon on a 20% to 30% pullback, too.
But at these levels? Too much success is assumed and too much can go wrong. Count me out until the price gets more reasonable.
AMZN Stock Has Potential … I Guess
By Kyle Woodley
InvestorPlace Deputy Managing Editor
At the beginning of this year, I came out with a fairly skeptical viewpoint toward Amazon (AMZN). My biggest beef with AMZN stock was that it always has traded in the science fiction section rather than nonfiction. So, I said I wouldn’t bet against Amazon, but I wouldn’t bet on it, either.
I was wrong and I was right. AMZN stock has improved 40% since then, making my final call a poor one. But, like I said, it did so on iffy substance, including two losses (one a surprise) in its past two earnings reports.
Nonetheless, I think Amazon has finally stuck its claws into enough promising long-term projects that I’m finally willing to believe enough of them will pan out and justify everyone’s faith in the company. The initiative that really turned me is Amazon Pantry. James Brumley puts together an excellent analysis here, so I won’t dawdle on it much, but AMZN plans on taking the likes of Costco (COST) with a bulk delivery service of basic consumer goods.
American society is increasingly considering the basic act of going out and shopping beneath it. And while there’s something to be said about picking your own produce, I’ve yet to see anyone pull off the in-store “squeeze” test on a roll of Charmin or smell a bottle of Liquid-Plumbr for freshness. So to me, bulk goods delivery is a wide-open door for Amazon Pantry to charge through.
Combine that with Amazon’s right-in-the-pocket bet on cloud services, as well as the potential of Amazon Prime given our migration toward Internet TV viewing, and AMZN stock just has too many weapons to count it out.
I still fear the day where the whole world wakes up to Amazon’s absurd valuation, so I’d still suggest being sensible about stop-losses. But AMZN stock has my begrudging vote.
As of this writing, Jeff Reeves and Kyle Woodley were long TSLA.