Despite Little Profit, Amazon Sales Beat Expectations

Amazon turned in its worst fourth-quarter financial results since 2014, revealing how new pressures and slower economic growth are weighing on almost every aspect of its business. And despite its recent layoff of some 18,000, some observers say the ecommerce giant is still bloated.

Net sales climbed 9% to $149.2 billion, compared with $137.4 billion in the fourth quarter, beating expectatons. Excluding currency impact, sales gained 12%. In North America, sales rose 13% to $93.4 billion.

At AWS, its computing component, sales advanced 20% to $21.4 billion -- but again, below expectations.

And net income evaporated, falling below consensus expectations to $278 million, compared with $14.3 billion. For the year, it has a net loss of $2.7 billion.

Amazon's ad business continues to boom, with revenue climbing 19% in the quarter to $11.5 billion, compared to the comparable period last year. Compared to the third quarter, it rose 23%.



While no one seems to doubt the company’s ability to keep growing, innovating and dominating almost every sector it competes in, they are keeping a close eye on how it navigates the pressures dragging down most tech companies.

The biggest cloud is economic uncertainty. “A lack of consumer confidence that has led to widely held perceptions of an imminent recession continues to weigh on Amazon’s growth,” writes Michael Pachter, an analyst who follows Amazon for Wedbush Securities, who continues to expect Amazon to outperform its competitors.

But he sees problems, too. “Amazon’s corporate organization is bloated. While we think it is appropriate for the company to right-size its workforce, the cut of 18,000 employees from a base of over 300,000 is not enough to restore confidence.”

Amazon is deeply committed to developing its physical stores, where quarterly sales notched a 6% gain to $4.9 billion. But there, too, Pachter is skeptical. “Amazon is experimenting with too many concepts, particularly with its retail footprint, and we are pessimistic that any of its experimental initiatives in physical retail will bear fruit.”

But as consumers continue to gravitate toward online shopping and Amazon digs into its other businesses, such as the advertising division and its AWS powerhouse, its future seems bright, despite a choppy few quarters ahead. “We still foresee healthy long-term growth,” writes Dan Romanoff, an analyst who covers Amazon for Morningstar. “But the near term remains a work-in-progress with macro issues weighing on 2023.”

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