Remember when the financial pundits at sites like Seeking Alpha were recommending to short Amazon, and predicting that the company would surely collapse at any time, because it was seemingly unable to turn a profit? Well, Recode just reported that Amazon has reported a profit for the 8th quarter in a row in its Q1 2017 earnings report. And looking at the chart in the Recode story, five of those eight quarters including the most recent one were significantly higher than any profit seen in the preceding several years. I hope all those people who were bound and determined to keep short-selling Amazon have stopped by now.
Apparently at least one of them has. Seeking Alpha commentator Paulo Santos, who was shorting Amazon back in 2013, now says he has no position on the stock in his latest article. (I wonder how much money he lost?) Though in that article, he doesn’t hesitate to call Amazon out for being a “special snowflake” for some of the things brought out in the Q1 2017 earnings report.
One of the things mentioned in that report was how Amazon beat its $1.12 earnings-per-share expectation by making a reported $1.48 EPS. However, Santos noted that in its Q4 2016 report, Amazon’s expectation had been $1.69 EPS, which it had subsequently lowered. He also noted that in Q1 2016, Amazon was paying a tax rate of 45%, whereas in Q1 2017 that had fallen by almost half to 24%. Paying the old tax rate would have made for a $1.07 EPS rather than $1.48. (But even that would still have been a positive profit, something the “old” Amazon rarely had.)
In any event, it seems that Amazon has a long history of stymying investment pundits by behaving in ways other than they would expect. So have its shareholders, in fact, by not punishing Amazon during all the years it either barely profited or outright lost money.
It’s also worth noting that, for all Amazon’s rhetoric about conquering the world through retail, much of those profits can be attributed to Amazon Web Services, its business-to-business web hosting service. If you took that away, its earnings would be considerably more anemic. But then, it’s still pouring huge amounts of money into building out its infrastructure. (For example, spending $1.5 billion on an airport shipping hub in Kentucky.) Perhaps the nearly-pure-profit AWS is simply letting Jeff Bezos keep Wall Street happy by camouflaging all that spending behind a veneer of making money.
Something else that came to mind as I was reading these stories is that the same long-term thinking that drives the pundits nuts is also why current antitrust thinking has such a hard time dealing with Amazon. It seems as though entrepreneurs who play the long game are so rare that nobody quite knows what to make of them