Commentary

By Thinking Long-Term, Amazon Quickly Crosses $1 Trillion Threshold

Amazon has officially parlayed the April 1995 sale of a wonky book about human intelligence into a $1 trillion business, with its vines and tentacles in every aspect of retail, as well as in cloud computing, content creation and -- who knows what’s coming?

Its stock price has more than doubled in a year, Reuters’ Sinéad Carew and Noel Randewich report, and its shares yesterday “traded as high as $2,050.50 before easing a little to end the session at $2,039.51, up 1.3% percent and just short of the milestone level of $2,050.2677.” 

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No one -- including “Mad Money host Jim Cramer -- seems to doubt it will not only cross that trillion-dollar threshold again, but also keep rising. And that may be its secret sauce.

“Amazon captures 49 cents of every e-commerce dollar in the United States. It employs more than 550,000 people and generates $178 billion in annual revenue. It sells everything from computing space to peanut butter to appointments with plumbers,” writes David Streitfeld for the New York Times. “But the thing it has always sold the most -- to investors, customers, the news media -- is excitement.”

Its list of what have become branded staples of everyday consumption include Kindle e-books, CreateSpace on-demand publishing, Amazon Web Services, Whole Foods with Amazon Prime, Echo and Alexa devices.

“Long before Amazon went to Hollywood and began making movies, it was the star of its own show, generating vast amounts of attention just for being Amazon. No other company had ever managed to turn its lack of profit into such effective drama, or the question of what its next move would be,” Streitfeld continues.

And it has set the tone for what has become the new world order in capitalism.

“Amazon and Apple, which hit the trillion-dollar milestone on Aug. 2, symbolize the growing influence of tech companies on markets and the economy. The industry is amassing wealth and power, creating a new order in business where the most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data. Not far behind in market value are Google owner Alphabet Inc. and Microsoft Corp., both approaching $900 billion, while Facebook Inc. -- which crossed $500 billion in July 2017, a day after Amazon -- has stalled at those levels amid a data-privacy scandal and growth concerns,” write Laura Stevens and Amrith Ramkumar for the Wall Street Journal.

“For the sake of perspective, the seven major entertainment conglomerates -- Comcast, Sony, 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney, Viacom and CBS, plus AT&T (owner of WarnerMedia) -- have a combined market cap of $751 billion, meaning Wall Street thinks Amazon (and Apple) are each more valuable than those other seven companies combined,” observes Paul Bond of the Hollywood Reporter.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said: “To reach a market capitalization of over $1 trillion is impressive. To do it in a little over 24 years is extraordinary,” the BBC reports. “That Amazon has achieved this demonstrates its dramatic advancement in both the retail and technology sectors, as well as the influence it now wields over large parts of the consumer landscape.”

But as rapid as Amazon’s rise may seem, its success is famously based on taking a longer view than most companies do. 

“It took investors a while to fully appreciate Bezos’ long-term strategies. The stock has surged in recent years, largely based on bets he made more than a decade ago,” writes Bloomberg’s Spencer Soper.

Soper then cites a Bezos quote from a 2011 Wired magazine article:“‘If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that.'" 

Not that the company doesn’t have its competitors, as well as more politically oriented detractors.

Amazon “faces increasing competition in online retailing from big players like Walmart and Target that are fighting to regain lost market share. It is also facing challenges from Microsoft and Google in the competitive cloud-computing business,” points out Adam Shell for USA Today.

Meanwhile, the President’s vendetta against Amazon is well-documented, but he’s not the only politician determined to put some legislative screws to it. Reacting to the news of the trillion-dollar valuation yesterday and pointing out that Bezos is worth $155 billion personally, Vermont independent senator Bernie Sanders twee ted that “thousands of Amazon workers have to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing to survive.  That is what a rigged economy looks like. Tomorrow we will introduce a bill to end subsidies for low-wage employers.”

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