Amazon has just reported its earnings for the 4th quarter of 2017 and man what a whopper of a quarter it was. Top line revenue numbers were broadly in line with analyst expectations coming in with good growth at $60.5bn but the big news story is the net income/earnings per share number.
- Revenue for the quarter $60.5bn, up 38% YoY with 2% of the gain coming from positive FX rates.
- Net Income $1.9bn ($3.75/share) for the quarter, up from $749m ($1.54/share) in Q4 2016.
- Provisional boost to net income of $789m as a result of the Trump tax cuts.
Analyst expectations prior to the announcement had consensus at around $1.85/share so it’s a huge increase, although for the year overall, Amazon income is little changed from 2016, but with decent growth in revenue. Something is still clearly pulling back on the profitability as ever seems to be the case with the company which continues to be both a darling of the investment industry and a continual R&D money furnace.
Sales Up on 2016 But Revenue Growth Continues to Outstrip Income
Overall sales increased by 31% to almost $178bn for the year vs $136bn in 2016, but the income figures tell a familiar tale of continued lagging behind top line revenue numbers growing by about 25% from $2.4bn to $3bn.
To be clear, these are not numbers to be sniffed at. Amazon is still growing like crazy and continuing its diversification push like mad. As with a lot of R&D efforts, some pay off and some don’t, this year it would appear that Alexa has been a big winner from the homegrown products side of the business and Bezos confirmed that the firm would be doubling down on it.
That much said, operating income saw a slight decrease from $4.2bn in 2016 to $4.1bn in 2017. What this means is that the it’s ultimately quite a good thing for Amazon that the Trump tax cuts got passed and made their bottom line numbers look stronger than they would otherwise appear. In fact, without the boost from the tax cuts, net income also sees a modest reduction.
As with many other big tech industry firms, Amazon also has something of an offshore cash pile, although to a lesser extent than the biggest players. Still, $8.6bn is not a tiny amount and given the new tax law in the US which means that tax will have to be paid on it regardless of whether it gets brought home or not, it feels like there may be some M&A activity in the future.
Amazon already had a fairly sizeable acquisition last year when it purchased Whole Foods for $13.7bn, but it has always been a company that hasn’t been afraid to try new things of its own rather than just growing by acquiring exciting new startups after it has become a behemoth and forgotten how to innovate. Kindle was an example of that, and Alexa is doing that now. As such, we know that Amazon has a history of ploughing money back into its R&D activities which is also perhaps why its offshore cash pile isn’t as large as others.
As ever, expect the company to continue with this split of monetisation and continuous expansion into new areas and as ever, so long as investors are happy to keep the faith in Bezos and his little bookshop that could, he’ll continue to grow revenue while making marginal gains in net income. Eventually the firm will of course stop this path. Whether that day comes when Bezos hands over the helm or sooner, you can bet that once the focus shifts to pure monetisation, it is likely to become a profit powerhouse the likes of which we can only imagine from looking at its numbers now.
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