Amazon.com Inc. and Wall Street analysts are lowering expectations for the e-commerce giant’s holiday season performance in light of its largest quarterly loss in 14 years. In the starkest example of Amazon fatigue, financial firm Raymond James issued a research note to its clients Thursday evening, titled “Amazon Not on Fire.”
Amazon’s shares were down 10 percent in pre-market trading Friday, a sign that investor sentiment may be turning.
Since its founding in 1994, the company has barely eked out a profit. Investors so far haven’t cared. Amazon stock has risen nearly 400 percent over two decades as it wooed investors with skyrocketing sales and optimism about the growth long-term projects would eventually deliver.
Now investors may be losing patience. Amazon’s swath of investments in ventures like same-day grocery delivery have combined with slowing revenue growth and a continued slowdown in international growth, including a $170 million writedown in Fire smartphone inventory due to lackluster sales. Those factors dragged down the company’s third-quarter earnings, according to Raymond James analysts. Back-to-school sales were also weaker than expected as many students opted to rent rather buy textbooks from the retailer. It’s the fourth quarter in a row that Amazon has disappointed Wall Street on revenue and earnings.
The company has lowered its forecast of the October-December period, retailers’ busiest season, to $27.3 billion to $30.3 billion, below Wall Street consensus of $30.9 billion.
Given the company’s current spending on fulfillment and distribution centers and aggressive pricing for Amazon Web Service, which offers remote IT infrastructure for businesses, “we see little operating leverage in the near-term,” Barclays Internet & Media analyst Paul Vogel wrote in a note Friday. “This, paired with the challenging revenue outlook, may be too much for everyone but the most patient of investors.”
Vogel is advising investors to wait for a better entry point, when profit margins have expanded, to buy Amazon shares. Citibank's outlook is similar, with a neutral rating. And UBS recommends against buying the stock, at least for now.
"Until the investment picture has some clarity, we do not see a compelling reason to buy Amazon's stock," UBS analyst Eric Sheridan wrote in a note Friday. He thinks investors want to see greater cash flow and reaccelerating revenue growth.
But Goldman Sachs maintains a “buy” rating on Amazon.
“We believe the investments in infrastructure currently pressuring margins will pay off in the form of additional market share gains and continued high returns on invested capital,” Goldman analyst Heath Terry wrote in a note Thursday.
Amazon is experimenting with delivering its own packages in some cities including San Francisco, London and New York. It’s expected to open its first brick-and-mortar store in Manhattan in time for holiday sales to allow customer returns, pickups and expanded same-day delivery service in the city.