(Bloomberg) — Amazon.com Inc. reported a strong holiday quarter, calming Wall Street’s concerns that the company was headed for a slowdown.
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Profit beat expectations, helped by the cloud-computing division, and investors cheered a price hike for the company’s Prime subscription service. The shares jumped as much as 19% in extended trading.
The reaction highlights the importance of Amazon’s diversification from its e-commerce roots. Online store sales actually declined from last year’s blockbuster gains tied to the pandemic. Yet Amazon’s profitable cloud-computing and advertising businesses combined to more than made up for it.
“Amazon has evolved into a true platform, as more than 50% of its revenue now comes from areas outside of first-party retailing, such as cloud computing and advertising,” said Deren Baker, chief executive officer of market research firm Edge by Ascential.
Fourth-quarter sales increased 9.4% to $137.4 billion, the Seattle-based company said Thursday in a statement. Profit was $27.75 a share, aided largely by a pretax gain from the company’s investment in Rivian Automotive Inc. which went public in November. Analysts, on average, projected revenue of $137.8 billion and earnings of $3.77 a share, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Amazon in October had warned investors it would spend billions in the holiday period to ensure packages got to customers amid supply-chain bottlenecks and an acute labor shortage. A lot of that spending went into hiring 140,000 workers — just short of its goal of bringing on 150,000 recruits during the quarter. Amazon also lavished bonuses on workers, dispatched half-empty vehicles if it meant getting packages to customers on time and secured space on any ship it could find — a spending spree that totaled $22.4 billion.
The massive outlays helped reinforce the value of Prime membership with customers, giving the company confidence to raise the price by $20 to $139 a year — the first such increase since 2018. Prime, which offers subscribers shipping discounts, video streaming and other perks, helps Amazon convert occasional shoppers into loyal customers. Prime subscribers typically spend more on Amazon than non-members.
“As expected over the holidays, we saw higher costs driven by labor supply shortages and inflationary pressures, and these issues persisted into the first quarter due to omicron,” CEO Andy Jassy said in the statement. “Despite these short-term challenges, we continue to feel optimistic and excited about the business as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Shares rose to a high of $3,300 in extended trading after closing at $2,776.91 in New York. The stock has dropped about 17% this year, underperforming the dip of 6% in the S&P 500 Index.
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