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Amazon Firing On All Cylinders; Crash A Blip

Posted on Friday, Apr 29th 2011

According to an eMarketer report, e-commerce sales in the U.S. will continue to grow over the next four years to $269.8 billion in 2015 from $165.4 billion recorded last year. The Commerce Department estimates that e-commerce sales in 2010 in the country increased 14.8% over the previous year’s $144.1 billion. eMarketer projects sales to grow 13.7% this year with growth dropping to 11.3% in 2012, 9.7% in 2013 and 8.7% in 2014 and 8.1% in 2015.

Amazon’s Financials
Online retailer, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), is continuing to see strong revenue growth. Q1 revenues increased 38% over the year to $9.86 billion, exceeding the Street’s projected target of $9.52 billion. However, EPS of $0.44 was significantly short of the market’s expectations of $0.61. Amazon’s lower EPS is attributed to additional costs being incurred for addition of newer fulfillment centers, improvement of content and marketing campaigns. Amazon plans to add 9 more fulfillment centers this year.

Revenues from the U.S. and Canada grew 45% over the year to $5.47 billion and international revenues grew 27% over the year on a constant currency basis. According to management, international revenues were impacted by the Japanese tsunami and would have otherwise grown by 32%. By segment, Worldwide media revenues grew 15% over the year to $3.96 billion and electronic and other general merchandise sales grew 59% to $5.59 billion.

For the current quarter, the company projects revenues of $8.85 billion to $9.65 billion with earnings of $95-$245 million. The market was estimating revenues of $8.74 billion for the quarter.

Amazon’s Kindle
According to Benchmark Company, Amazon is estimated to have shipped 8 million Kindles last year accounting for 5% of their overall sales. Kindle is Amazon’s best selling product. IDC estimates that Amazon sold 1.1 million Kindles in the December ending quarter last year and accounted for 41.5% market share of worldwide sales of e-reading devices. The report estimates e-reader sales to grow from 10.8 million units in 2010 to 14.7 million units in 2011 and 16.6 million units in 2012.

Amazon continued to lower the price for Kindle and recently announced the launch of a newer ad-supported version of the device. The new device, which was expected to be launched in May of this year, was released last week. Known as Kindle with Special Offers, the device is priced at $114, which is $25 less than the earlier Wi-Fi version, and is the lowest priced Kindle ever. The price for the product has been reduced through ads by sponsors that include General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, and Visa. Kindle will display full-screen ads and special deals on the home screen, and a smaller banner ad at the bottom of the screen when using the menu.

Kindle is also expanding internationally. Recently, the German site, Amazon.de, launched the Kindle Store, which is the biggest e-bookstore in Germany. The store has over 650,000 titles including 71 of 100 Spiegel bestsellers and over 25,000 German-language titles with many German classics downloadable for free.

Within the U.S., the company is also working on enabling users to download e-books from 11,000 U.S. libraries by the end of this year. Through the service, Amazon will add a feature that other e-readers including Sony’s and Barnes and Nobles’s Nook have already been offering.

Amazon’s Continued Expansion of Services
Amazon also continued to expand its service offerings and recently launched Amazon Cloud Drive, a service that lets users securely store music in the cloud. The music thus stored can be accessed via Android-based smartphones, tablets and PCs and Macs. The service is already helping boost sales at their MP3 store. Initially, customers will be given 5 GB of free Cloud Drive storage for their digital music library and they will be able to purchase additional space with every 1GB costing $1.08 a year. Consumers who purchase a full-length Amazon MP3 album will automatically be upgraded to 20 GB of space free.

Amazon has been building on its streaming movie collection. It recently tied up with Disney to include 50 Disney titles including “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Dead Poets Society” to Lovefilm’s collection. The movies will be available for streaming in the U.K. to subscribers paying GBP 5.99 (~$9.87) per month. Additional, unlimited content rental and streaming is also available through a subscription which is priced at GBP 19.39 (~$31.95) per month. Amazon’s movie service is also available in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Netflix, the biggest player in the online movie streaming space, has been trying to expand internationally. However, through the acquisition of Lovefilm earlier this year, Amazon has managed to establish a strong presence in Europe.

Amazon’s Cloud Crash
Recently, though Amazon was in the news for the failure of their cloud services, which sent many e-commerce sites crashing. Their Elastic Cloud hosts the websites of several businesses and provides inexpensive support to them for launching and scaling up websites without having their own data centers. The outage took several days to fix and has brought some severe negative publicity for the company.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s stock is trading at $182.30 with a market capitalization of $82.2 billion. It touched an all-time high of $191.60 earlier this year.

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