Amazon smashes through forecast to record holiday sales
American e-commerce giant Amazon.com, Inc. has reported fourth-quarter sales that were well above its own predictions, returning to earnings growth and sending its stock soaring 12% towards a valuation of $1 trillion in the extended session on Thursday.
For the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2019, the Seattle-based company reported net sales of $87.4 billion, up 21% from $72.4 billion in the prior-year period. Operating income increased from $3.8 million to $3.9 million.
In North America, Amazon's sales rose 22% to $53.7 billion, while international sales increased 14% to $23.8 billion.
The e-tailer’s quarterly net income totaled $3.3 billion, or $6.47 per diluted share, up from $3.0 billion, or $6.04 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Amazon had disappointed Wall Street in October of last year when, following a quarter in which its profits dropped for the first time in more than two years, the company announced that it expected to achieve net revenue of between $80 billion and $86.5 billion in Q4, with operating income expected to be in the range of $1.2 billion to $2.9 billion.
In line with Amazon's expectations, FactSet analysts cited by MarketWatch had expected the e-tailer to report net earnings of $4.04 a share on revenues of $86.03 billion.
The company’s dip in profits and pessimistic forecast were, in part, the result of increases in spending to expand the e-tailer’s workforce and halve delivery times for Amazon Prime members. However, Amazon’s comfortable Q4 sales and profits beat seems to suggest that the company’s investments are paying off earlier than anticipated.
“Prime membership continues to get better for customers year after year. And customers are responding – more people joined Prime this quarter than ever before, and we now have over 150 million paid Prime members around the world,” commented Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in a release.
“We’ve made Prime delivery faster – the number of items delivered to U.S. customers with Prime’s free one-day and same-day delivery more than quadrupled this quarter compared to last year,” he added.
For the full fiscal year 2019, Amazon’s net sales were $280.5 billion, reflecting a 20% increase (22% in constant currencies) compared to 2018’s total of $232.9 billion.
Annual net income was $11.6 billion, or $23.01 per diluted share, up from $10.1 billion, or $20.14 per diluted share, in the previous year.
Looking forward, Amazon expects its net sales for the first quarter of 2020 to total between $69.0 billion and $73.0 billion, increasing in the range of 16% to 22%. The company’s operating income is predicted to be between $3.0 billion and $4.2 billion, compared to $4.4 billion in Q1 2018.
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