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HomeWhat's OnAmazon's record holiday season wasn't good enough for Wall Street

Amazon's record holiday season wasn't good enough for Wall Street

Employees select and dispatch items in the huge Amazon 'fulfilment centre' warehouse.
Employees select and dispatch items in the huge Amazon ‘fulfilment centre’ warehouse.

Image: Getty Images/oli scarff

Amazon just had its best holiday season ever, pulling in the highest quarterly sales in the company’s history and capping off a year in which it tripled profits from the previous one.

Wall Street greeted this news with a definitive “meh.”

The online shopping behemoth’s stock fell more than four percent in after-hours trading on Thursday after its $43.74 billion in reported revenues fell short of analysts’ lofty $44.68 billion expectations.

While Amazon actually managed to deliver more earnings per share than investors had expected — $1.54 versus $1.35 — they were disappointed in the company’s underwhelming prediction for the next quarter.  

The tepid response also shows how much Wall Street’s attitude has changed towards the company in the last year. 

For years, Amazon hardly made any money outright, choosing instead to funnel its profits back into ambitious investments in different parts of the company.

All that spending has payed off massively in the past year. Amazon’s web services (AWS), which now powers much of the internet, has become a fast-growing cash machine that rivals the company’s entire shopping business in North America. Amazon’s media arm just won the brand prestige with its first-ever Oscar nod. And its Alexa-enabled devices were the top-selling product across all categories on the site this holiday season.

AWS — now most often the star of the company’s earning reports — continued to grow impressively this quarter with 47 percent more growth than the same period the previous year, despite slightly missed expectations. The business now operates at a 25-percent margin (as compared to 2.3 percent) from North American e-commerce.

The booming cloud business and other investments have helped to power Amazon through a record seven consecutive quarters of profitability now. Yet it still manages to pour money into a diverse assortment of business pursuits including brick-and-mortar stores, airplanes, new TV shows and other bets.

At the same time, however, investors have now come to expect sizable profits from the company, and they’re worried about signs that it will continue to expand.

The company’s earnings come after most brick-and-mortar retailers reported dismal holiday season sales, something many blamed on Amazon.  

Via ASDA Alltop