Amazon.com yesterday reported second-quarter sales and operating profit that well exceeded Wall Street expectations, sending the Seattle...
Amazon.com yesterday reported second-quarter sales and operating profit that well exceeded Wall Street expectations, sending the Seattle company’s stock soaring in after-hours trading.
And, despite the hype about a certain teenage wizard, the new Harry Potter book had almost nothing to do with the surprisingly good results.
Although Amazon has shipped more than 1.5 million pre-ordered copies of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” it did little more than break even on the book itself, Chief Financial Officer Thomas Szkutak said in a conference call with stock analysts.
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Counting the DVDs, blenders, moisturizers and other items people bought at the same time they pre-ordered the book — what Amazon calls “attachments” — this year’s version of the Harry Potter craze boosted second-quarter revenue by less than 1 percent, Szkutak said. In the current quarter, he said, the book and its attachments will add less than 3 percent to revenue growth.
All told in the quarter ended June 30, Amazon racked up $1.753 billion in sales, 26.4 percent more than in the same quarter last year and more than the $1.73 billion consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.
The company posted a quarterly net profit of $52 million, or 12 cents a share. Though that was down nearly a third from 2004’s second quarter, it was more than the consensus Street estimate of 10 cents a share. (Amazon missed analysts’ earnings-per-share estimate for the past four quarters.)
Virtually all of that decline in profit, however, was because of a higher income-tax charge related to the overseas transfer earlier this year of certain operating assets, which the company did not identify.
Operating profit, which excludes taxes, interest and various other items, was up 20.9 percent in the quarter, to $104 million. Operating margin, at 5.93 percent, was down from the second quarter of 2004 but up from this year’s first quarter.
The key, Legg Mason analyst Scott Devitt said, was Amazon’s “third party” business, under which outside merchants — from individuals to big chains such as Macy’s and J.C. Penney — sell their wares through Amazon’s site and pay it sales commissions.
Szkutak said third parties accounted for 28 percent of sales in the second quarter, compared with 24 percent a year earlier.
“The high margin third-party business drove gross-profit outperformance, operating-income outperformance and operating-margin leverage for the first time in a year,” Devitt said. (His firm, through its funds and affiliates, owns close to 16 percent of Amazon’s stock, making it the second-largest shareholder after founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.)
Investors seemed pleased with the report.
During the regular Nasdaq trading session yesterday, Amazon shares slipped 21 cents to $37.74. Once Amazon released its results after the close of regular trading, the shares climbed as high as $41.84 in after-hours activity.
Amazon’s stock is down 14.8 percent this year. Most of that drop came in early February, after the company missed fourth-quarter estimates and said it would boost technology spending and launch a new cut-rate shipping promotion, Amazon Prime.
Amazon Prime customers pay $79 a year in exchange for free, unlimited two-day shipping and discounted overnight shipping.
Wall Street had fretted that Amazon Prime, along with deeper book discounts and other promotions, would build sales but cost profits.
Without giving details, Szkutak and Bezos said Amazon Prime customers ordered more per visit and bought across more categories — particularly electronics, tools and kitchenware — compared with other customers.
“It changes the way they think about Amazon, because they get things so quickly,” Bezos said. “It’s really about making the shopping experience simpler.”
Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org