Another day, another case of the most-valuable U.S. company reporting its latest financial results.
Amazon again claimed the title this morning, following an underwhelming quarterly showing from previous No. 1 Microsoft. Amazon has come up short of revenue expectations each of the last two quarters, albeit while posting record profits, and will look to break that streak for earnings posted during its typically strong holiday season.
What analysts expect: Yahoo Finance expects a huge quarter from Amazon, projecting earnings of $5.67 per share, which would be a whopping 51 percent increase over the year before. Analysts expect quarterly revenue of $71.87 billion, a more modest increase of 18 percent over last year.
Amazon will also report its full-year results today, and analysts expect the company to post $232 billion in revenue/sales. That would mark the first time Amazon has eclipsed $200 billion in sales in a year and make it the sixth-largest U.S. company based on that metric, per CNBC.
Here are a few of the themes and numbers we will be keeping an eye on this afternoon:
On top of the cloud universe: Amazon Web Services is the engine behind Amazon’s transformation into a cash cow for investors and the king of the cloud. Last quarter, AWS posted 46 percent annual revenue growth — which is actually down from the prior quarter’s rise of 49 percent — and a 77 percent increase in operating income.
Will the cloud division continue to grow at its blistering pace and prop up the more unprofitable parts of Amazon’s business? Will executives give any credence to the persistent calls to spin off AWS into its own business?
Advertising, or maybe some other billion-dollar business: Amazon executives surprised investors and observers six months ago when they casually called out the company’s advertising division as a multi-billion dollar business. A recent report projected that Amazon would pass the combination of Microsoft and LinkedIn in ad dollars to trail only Google and Facebook.
Amazon’s tentacles reach into more and more areas all the time, so it’s certainly possible that one or more of its new businesses could reach new heights this quarter.
The elephant in the room: Arguably the biggest story surrounding Amazon right now has nothing to do with the company itself, but is instead about the personal life of its CEO Jeff Bezos. How will his divorce affect the future of the company? How much of Jeff Bezos’s fortune — and stake in Amazon — will MacKenzie Bezos receive?
This will be investors’ first chance to bring up the situation with Amazon executives. Will they be willing to ask the uncomfortable questions? Do they care?
Highlights from the quarter:
- Amazon concluded the attention-grabbing 14-month search for a second North American headquarters by splitting the so-called HQ2 in half between locations in New York and Northern Virginia. Amazon has already gotten pushback from New Yorkers, labor leaders and elected officials and is trying to assuage those concerns by investing in the community.
- AWS unveiled a bevy of new programs and features at its annual re:Invent conference in November, including: New services to help satellite operators send data to and from space, tools to build robot applications, a reinvention of its serverless computing strategy, a new self-driving racing league with mini cars powered by machine learning and more.
- The ninth location of the cashier-less grocery concept Amazon Go opened in late December. In the fourth quarter, Amazon opened stores in Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago, with more on the way.
- Amazon had what it called a “record-breaking” holiday season in 2018. The busy period pushed Amazon past a milestone of 100 million in lifetime Echo sales.
- In October, Amazon pledged to raise its minimum wage for all its U.S. workers to $15 per hour and lobby Congress to up the federal minimum wage. The surprise move followed a high-profile dispute between Amazon and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders over pay and working conditions for the company’s warehouse workers.