Amazon has another ‘Prime’ holiday: Profit tops USD3 billion

NEW YORK (AP) – Amazon had another strong holiday season: Its quarterly profit topped USD3 billion for the first time as revenue grew across many of its businesses, including online shopping, advertising and cloud computing.

The company, however, issued an estimate for the current quarter’s revenue that was below what Wall Street analysts expected, sending its stock down about five per cent in after-hours trading on Thursday.

Amazon executives attributed the softness in this quarter to uncertainty about how new e-commerce rules in India could hurt sales in that country. They also said the company’s costs may increase this year from last year, as it spends on hiring, warehouse construction and other investments.

Amazon, which recently surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable company in the United States (US), reported net income of USD3.03 billion during the last three months of 2018. On a per share basis, it had earnings of USD6.04, beating the USD5.55 per share analysts expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue rose 20 per cent to USD72.38 billion, which also beat expectations.

This December 5, 2018 file photo shows a box being scanned and weighed at the Amazon fulfilment centre on Staten Island borough of New York. – AP

The Seattle-based company has boosted its profits in recent quarters as it expanded into businesses beyond online shopping.

Its Amazon Web Services unit, which provides cloud computing services to governments and companies, has become a big moneymaker, helping to offset the high costs of the retail business. Sales in the web services unit grew 45 per cent in the quarter.

Its advertising division is now a multi-billion dollar business, selling ads to companies that want their products to show up first when shoppers search for things on the site.

The company doesn’t say exactly how much its ad business makes, but its “other” revenue, which is mostly made up of the ad business, nearly doubled from a year ago.

During the holidays, Amazon said a record number of people signed up for its Prime membership, but it didn’t provide specific numbers. Prime members pay USD119 a year for free, fast shipping and other perks.