by Lawrence Meyers | April 23, 2014 10:28 am
It’s that time of year again. Spring arrives and so do Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) earnings.
The company reports earnings after the bell on Thursday. What might we expect this time around? By now, everyone has caught on that net income isn’t really what matters with the company. Revenues are what are most closely watched, but now Amazon has so many other initiatives that those are starting to have an impact on AMZN stock.
Still, revenues will be the primary driver of the stock. Wall Street is expecting 21% growth to $19.436 billion, with 27% gross margins of $5.4 billion being the second-most important number for the company to hit. It’s hard to believe that AMZN stock continues to grow revenues at that rate, and even harder to believe that even a tiny miss could seriously hit the stock. Why complain about 20% revenue growth?
I expect some impact on AMZN stock due to the increase in Prime membership cost to $99 from $79. The full effect won’t be known until the end of Q2, but we’ll get an indication as to what the market thinks. One might argue that the Prime membership base isn’t large enough, or saturated enough, to absorb a 25% price increase. But I disagree.
Prime membership is a bargain for anyone who uses Amazon enough to warrant the purchase. Membership has seen terrific growth — to the point where it had to limit sign-ups. I think that growth will continue, even if there is a dip in the short-term due to the price increase. This will be helped by Amazon raising the minimum order price for free shipping from $25 to $35.
Some say it’s unclear what AMZN stock intends to accomplish with its streaming content service. I believe Jeff Bezos intends to make it just as much a consideration for consumers as Netflix (NFLX) or Hulu or any of the other choices. Choice is good for consumers. Amazon has an advantage in that it can ultimately just use streaming as a loss leader. People come to watch content, and because they’re already on the website, it creates just enough incentive to perhaps buy something else.
AMZN stock has loads of other strategic initiatives. I frankly don’t expect all of them to pay off, but the company has billions of dollars in the bank and generates billions every quarter. It can afford to experiment.
Amazon’s web and cloud services may be the key to long-term growth. There are millions of small business for which these are both a value and a valuable tool. It’s a high-margin business, and there is some spillover of the philosophy that one may be more likely to make an Amazon purchase of retail goods if one is using its other services, like streaming or web or cloud services.
Amazon’s ability and willingness to experiment, and the cash to do both, are the reasons it can undercut competitors on pricing to obtain clients.
I remain skeptical of Fire TV, since Amazon will have to compete with Apple (AAPL) in this arena. However, Tim Cook had better get his act together on that front or Bezos will steal his lunch.
I think, regardless of the results, AMZN stock should be a core growth holding in your portfolio.
As of this writing, Lawrence Meyers was long AAPL. He is president of PDL Broker, Inc., which brokers financing, strategic investments and distressed asset purchases between private equity firms and businesses. He also has written two books and blogs about public policy, journalistic integrity, popular culture, and world affairs. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow his tweets at @ichabodscranium.
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