Amazon Reports Earnings Thursday. Expect a Blowout.


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Amazon has beat expectations for 10 quarters in a row. Here, Amazon headquarters in Torrazza Piemonte near Turin, Italy.


Stefano Guidi/Getty Images


Amazon

reports earnings after Thursday’s closing bell. Expect a blowout.

For the June quarter, the tech giant has projected sales of $110 billion to $116 billion, with operating income in the $4.5 billion-to-$8 billion range. Wall Street consensus calls for sales of $115.4 billion, operating income of $7.8 billion, and earnings of $12.28 a share.

There are several reasons why the Street numbers might be too low. 

For one, Amazon (ticker: AMZN) has beat expectations in every quarter since the start of the pandemic—in fact, for 10 quarters in a row.

Another is that Amazon’s competitors have already reported solid numbers.

Shopify

(SHOP), arguably one of the company’s most important rivals in e-commerce, posted better-than-expected results for the June quarter, noting that sustained digital commerce trends and U.S. stimulus checks in March and April drove revenues above expectations. Strong reports from Alphabet, Snap and Twitter suggest Amazon will post accelerating growth in its underappreciated advertising business. And the strength in the cloud business at Microsoft bodes well for Amazon Web Services.

Street estimates call for Amazon to post $57.3 billion in online sales, up 25%; $24.8 billion in third-party sellers services, up 36%; $14.3 billion from AWS, up 32%; $7.9 billion in subscription services, up 36%; $7 billion in “other” revenue, which is mostly advertising, up 66%; and $3.9 billion in physical stores revenue, up 3%.

Plus, there are a couple of other factors at play. This will be the first quarter for Amazon since Jeff Bezos turned over the CEO reins to Andy Jassy. Bezos didn’t typically participate in the company’s quarterly earnings calls with analysts, leaving that job to CFO Brian OIsavky; it remains to be seen if Jassy will make an appearance this year. Also, Amazon finds itself at the heart of the debate—in Washington and elsewhere—over the power of tech companies, and now faces an in-depth investigation by the Federal Trade Commission over its proposed acquisition of the film studio MGM. Amazon has requested that FTC Chair Lina Khan recuse herself from any matters involving Amazon given her past criticisms of the company.

Investors also will be watching for clues on how the company expects the pandemic and a return to a more normal economy will impact results for the rest of the year. Street estimates for the September quarter call for revenue of $118.6 billion and profits of $12.97 a share.

In a research note, MKM Partners analyst Rohit Kulkarni points out that Amazon has underperformed both Alphabet and

Facebook

shares this year. He thinks the stock has been weighed down by ongoing debate about the true strength of this year’s Prime Day sales event, as well as ongoing questions about the outlook for e-commerce as supplemental U.S. unemployment benefits lapse in September. Nonetheless, Kulkarni thinks that advertising, Amazon Prime subscriptions, and AWS will together drive upside to both second-quarter results and guidance, and he continues to consider Amazon his best pick among the big internet stocks. Kulkarni keeps his Buy rating and $4,075 target price.

Evercore ISI analyst Mark Mahaney maintains an Outperform rating and $4,500 target price. He thinks Street estimates for the second quarter “look largely reasonable,” although he has some concerns that the Street might be too bullish on the third quarter, in particular given Prime Day this year shifted into the second quarter. 

Monness Crespi White analyst Brian White notes that Amazon shares have been “range bound” over the past few months, but he thinks the company is “uniquely positioned” to exit the pandemic as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the digital transformation trend. White asserts that “the company’s growth path is very attractive across the e-commerce segment, AWS, digital media, advertising, Alexa and more.” White maintains his Buy rating and $4,500 target price.

In afternoon trading Wednesday, Amazon shares were down 0.2%, to $3,618.58.

Write to Eric J. Savitz at eric.savitz@barrons.com

Roy Walsh

Roy Walsh

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