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Why Amazon's shares are slipping
Six smart takes on the e-tail giant's recent troubles
 
It may be time to worry.
It may be time to worry. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Amazon's "20-year honeymoon" may be over, said James B. Stewart at The New York Times. The online retail giant reported its first-quarter earnings last week, "topping analysts' forecasts and warming hearts of Amazon loyalists" with news that revenue grew 23 percent. But judging from its tanking share price, which fell by more than $30, investors weren't too pleased. Despite a reported revenue of nearly $20 billion, Amazon's "operating income fell 19 percent, to $146 million" with net income topping out at "a modest $108 million." At $300 each, "Amazon's shares remain expensive," and the company's "lofty valuation has long baffled many investors." Yet "betting against Amazon has invariably turned out to be a mistake," leading Wall Street to measure its value "based on revenue rather than profits." But now that growth is starting to slow, the cult of Amazon may finally be waning.

It's about time, said Brian Solomon at Forbes. "Amazon has long traded at a massive multiple of its near-nonexistent earnings," and Wall Street is tiring of the company's apparent "aversion to profits." But why now? said Alison Griswold at Slate. "For a long time, Wall Street has essentially put its trust in" Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, giving him a "bye" when it came to profits. Now that sales are slowing, investors are concerned. "When growth slows, it can suggest that the investments Amazon is making aren't necessarily paying off."

Bezos is between a rock and a hard place, said Douglas A. McIntyre at 247WallSt.com. "If he is to trounce his e-commerce, multimedia, and cloud-based computer rivals, he has to drive his company to a loss." While Amazon reigns supreme when it comes to e-commerce, the company needs to ward off rivals like Samsung and Apple in the tablet arena. And in multimedia and cloud computing, Amazon's products face real threats from competitors like Netflix, Apple, Microsoft, and Google. For now, Bezos' excuse for hemorrhaging money is that Amazon must stake out its territory. But "these may be businesses in which Amazon never makes a dime."

Since when does Wall Street care? asked John McDuling at Quartz. We've known for a long time that "Jeff Bezos basically doesn't care about profits." That's why "the cash flow is reinvested in lower prices for consumers and beefed-up infrastructure." But Bezos may have to start tightening the belt. While investors have so far been more than happy to go along for the ride, "someday their patience will wear thin." That day's not here yet, but the recent decline says it could be coming soon.

Amazon is really just ahead of the curve, said Brian Shaw at Motley Fool. "Innovations do come at a cost," and while Amazon's investment in drones, streaming technology, e-readers, set-top boxes, and infrastructure "may hurt the bottom line today," they also position the company "for further growth in the future." By "waiting for earnings growth to materialize," investors who buck Amazon now risk missing "an opportunity to acquire shares at a very reasonable valuation."

 
Sergio Hernandez is business editor of The Week's print edition. He has previously worked for The DailyProPublica, the Village Voice, and Gawker.

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