Amazon: The Song Remains the Same

by Jim Woods | April 25, 2014 2:13 pm

Amazon: The Song Remains the Same

The Street eagerly awaits Amazon (AMZN[1]) earnings each quarter … but really, why even bother?

You see, nearly every quarter we get a case of what classic rockers Led Zeppelin call, “The Song Remains the Same.” That is to say, Amazon earnings come in with big revenue growth and a tiny profit due largely to massive reinvestment of capital into the business that allows it to expand.

This is all part of CEO Jeff Bezos’ master plan to take over not just the electronic retailing world (it has long since done that), but also the way humans consume everything, from books to entertainment to groceries.

To couch it in Led Zeppelin-like poetry, you might say Bezos, “Had a dream. Crazy dream.”

A Look at Amazon Earnings … For What They’re Worth

During Q1, AMZN reported earnings growth of 28% vs. the prior year, with EPS coming in at 23 cents. That metric was in line with consensus expectations. As for the top line, Amazon saw sales growth of 23% year over year to a remarkable $19.74 billion.

That’s a lot of cheese, as the saying goes.

More importantly, it also represents revenue acceleration over Q4’s relatively low (yet still enviable) growth of “just” 20% year-over-year.

The bad news for Q1 Amazon earnings is that the company saw operating income fall 19% to $146 million. Amazon cited increased costs and increased sales support spending for the tepid bottom-line while reporting that total operating expenses — things such as fulfillment, content, marketing and technology — jumped by 23.3%. Shipping costs, always an issue for Amazon, rose some 28% worldwide.

Shareholders got even more bad news on Friday, as Wall Street basically interpreted Amazon earnings negatively … and started to look ahead.

Specifically, AMZN shares sank nearly 9% in mid-Friday trade, as the fast money focused on the company’s less-than-robust Q2 outlook. Amazon forecasts sales in the coming quarter to be $18.1 billion to $19.8 billion. That’s a disappointment when the average analyst forecast sits at $19.03 billion. The company also said it anticipates operating at a loss in the second quarter.

That’s Fine. AMZN Isn’t About Earnings

Now, the Street’s reaction to the Q1 metrics and Q2 forecast is clear in terms of how bad AMZN stock was tanking late Friday.

Thing is, like it always is, when considering AMZN, you have to play the long game.

Yes, profits are tiny, but that has always been the case. The more important thing here is that revenue continues to grow, and Amazon continues to make investments in future growth areas. Some recent examples of this are video content deals with the likes of HBO[2], as well as future plans to move into the so-called “last mile” delivery[3]. (This delivery issue is where I suspect that, given time, we’ll ultimately see costs reduced significantly.)

Of course, the issue for investors here is, should you be buying the same old song and dance from Amazon?

Absolutely.

Given the double-digit percentage haircut in the shares over the past several months, I think now could be the best time in years to buy AMZN stock for the intermediate and/or long term. Much harder here is what to do with the stock if you’ve been long and have a substantial gain.

For example, those who bought and held AMZN five years ago now are sitting on a profit of more than 300%. Hey, if you’re one of those investors, then banking gains certainly is understandable.

However, one thing for certain is that Jeff Bezos is in it for the long haul.

If you want to make money in the long haul too (and don’t we all), then I say buy more AMZN stock at current levels.

As of this writing, Jim Woods did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

Endnotes:
  1. AMZN: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=AMZN
  2. video content deals with the likes of HBO: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/business/amazon-to-offer-original-hbo-content.html
  3. so-called “last mile” delivery: http://investorplace.com/2014/04/amzn-the-last-mile/

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