Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) stock has fallen into bear-market territory recently on concerns about a slowdown of the company’s core e-retail business. The selloff of Amazon stock seems to make sense. After all, Amazon’s core e-retail business accounts for about 70% of its total revenues.
But that surface analysis misses the bigger picture of Amazon stock.
Amazon’s e-commerce business is indeed slowing. But none of its other businesses is slowing. Amazon Prime’s growth remains red-hot. Amazon Web Services’ growth is actually accelerating, while Amazon’s digital advertising business is booming and its offline retail business is steadily expanding.
In other words, while Amazon’s e-retail business is slowing, not all of the company’s businesses are slowing. Moreover, the growth of the company’s highest margin segments isn’t slowing. As a result, Amazon’s profit growth looks poised to accelerate despite its slowing e-retail business.
Overall, the slowdown of Amazon’s retail business is worrisome. But it does not derail the long-term bull thesis on Amazon stock. Given Amazon’s broad exposure to multiple secular growth markets and its strong growth rates within those markets, Amazon stock still has a very favorable long-term outlook.
Amazon Is Much More Than E-Commerce
We all knew that Amazon’s e-retail business was going to slow at some point. After all, the business had been growing at ridiculous rates over the past several years, and AMZN controlled 50% of the U.S. e-commerce market. That wasn’t sustainable. Eventually, other retailers would pivot en masse to the digital channel, market share would be more evenly distributed, and Amazon’s e-commerce growth would slow.
We are at that point now. While Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Target (NYSE:TGT) and other large brick-and-mortar retailers are reporting record e-commerce growth rates, Amazon’s e-commerce business is slowing. In other words, e-commerce is being democratized, and Amazon is losing share.
Fortunately, Amazon’s management prepared for this scenario. Over the past several years, Amazon has created many other businesses, launching cloud, subscription services, offline retail, and digital advertising businesses. Amazon is still trying to diversify, as it’s looking to enter the logistics and pharmaceuticals markets.
Broadly speaking, Amazon has become much more than an e-commerce company. That has improved its long-term growth outlook.
Amazon’s Revenue Slowdown Is Temporary
Granted, online store sales and third-party seller services, which together make up Amazon’s e-commerce business, combine to constitute the lion’s share of Amazon’s revenue (roughly 70% last quarter). So as Amazon’s e-commerce business slows, its overall revenue growth will slow, too. That’s why its Q4 revenue guidance was so weak, coming in at 15% year-over-year growth versus the 35% that it had reported over the past 12 months.
But this slowdown is temporary.
The company’s subscription services business, which includes Amazon Prime subscriptions, is still expanding at a 50%-plus rate, and its growth hasn’t slowed by much. AWS is expanding at a 40%-plus rate, and it is actually growing more quickly than it was last year. The digital ad business is more than doubling each year and has maintained a 100%-plus growth rate for three straight quarters.
Overall, between subscription services, AWS and digital advertising, Amazon’s hyper-growth businesses grew at a 58% clip last quarter. That isn’t much of a slowdown compared with the 62% growth that those businesses generated in Q2. To be sure, they only accounted for 23% of the company’s total revenue last quarter, but that’s a significant increase from the 19% of revenue that they contributed in the third quarter of 2017.
Over time, they will continue to account for a greater share of Amazon’s revenue. As that trend continues, the hyper-growth of those businesses will offset the slowing growth of e-commerce, and the company’s overall revenue growth rates will climb back to 20%-plus levels.
Growth Is Happening Where It Needs to Happen
A truly underappreciated aspect of Amazon stock is that the revenue growth of the company’s most profitable businesses remains high.
Amazon Prime presumably has sky-high margins, while AWS has operating margins of 30%-plus, and they are improving. Since digital ad giant Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is reporting 40%-plus operating margins even as it’s spending a great deal of money on security, Amazon’s digital ad business presumably also has very high margins.
Meanwhile, the margins of Amazon’s e-retail business probably won’t exceed WalMart’s operating margins of just 4%.
Thus, Amazon’s revenue growth is shifting from low-margin to high-margin businesses. That shift should increase Amazon’s profitability and boost AMZN stock price. Indeed, we are already seeing this. Amazon’s total operating margins have zoomed from 1%-2% in the middle of last year to 6%-7% today.
Over the next several years, this shift will continue, and Amazon’s profit margins will continue to move dramatically higher. At the end of the day, what really matters for Amazon stock is profit growth. Improved margins will drive improved profit growth, and that will ultimately make Amazon stock a long-term winner.
Bottom Line on AMZN Stock
Concerns about the slowdown of Amazon’s e-commerce business are overstated. Amazon’s high-margin businesses continue to grow quickly, and those high-margin businesses are gradually becoming meaningful revenue contributors. As this shift continues to play out over the next few years, Amazon’s revenue growth will bounce back and its profit growth will jump tremendously.
Ultimately, tremendous profit growth will power AMZN stock price higher over the long-term.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long AMZN, WMT, and FB.