The company’s CEO notes that Amazon was the “fastest company to ever reach” the $100 billion revenue milestone, adding that the Amazon Web Services unit is growing at an even faster rate.
Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos tries to keep his company from losing the attitude of a young, do-or-die startup.
But on Tuesday, he took some time to mark how far the e-commerce and cloud-computing behemoth has come in almost two decades as a publicly traded company.
Bezos presided over the Seattle company’s annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday in front of a crowd of a few dozen mostly appreciative stockholders gathered at Fremont Studios in Seattle.
From a financial perspective, they have good reason to be. The company in 2015 cleared $100 billion in annual revenue, and shares are up 65 percent in the past year, touching record highs along the way.
Some analysts say that as Amazon’s profitability grows, shares are bound for even more of a boost.
Bernstein recently put a $1,000 12-month target on Amazon shares, up from their current level of around $700, a bet that raised eyebrows on Wall Street.
“We are the fastest company to ever reach that milestone,” Bezos said of the $100 billion figure. Amazon Web Services (AWS), which rents on-demand data storage and computer-processing power, is growing at an even faster rate, he said.
The company, meanwhile, isn’t about to drop its long-held strategy — which sometimes tests the patience of Wall Street — of giving priority to long-term growth over short-term profitability.
In response to a question from a shareholder about AWS’ profitability, Bezos said sophisticated investors think a lot about return on investment. Less sophisticated investors obsess over corporate profitability.
Bezos also outlined plans for some of Amazon’s business units.
Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar bookstore, in Seattle’s University Village, won’t be the company’s last, Bezos said. He also acknowledged the irony of Amazon, a company that sped the demise of many physical booksellers, getting into that business itself.
“It’s an experiment,” he said. “We’re definitely going to open additional stores. How many? We don’t know yet.”
The company will continue to add features in a bid to get people to sign up for Amazon Prime, the subscription service that offers two-day shipping on many products as well as perks such as on-demand video.
“Our goal with Amazon Prime, make no mistake, is to make sure that if you are not a Prime member, you are being irresponsible,” Bezos said.
He remained vague about the number of subscribers to the service, saying only that there were “tens of millions” of Prime members.
For its growing cloud-computing arm, Bezos said the company was continuing to add services. Amazon engineers introduced 722 new cloud-computing products or services last year, from up from 516 the year before, he said, a metric designed to show that despite AWS’ wide lead in selling Web-based building blocks over such companies as Microsoft and Google, it isn’t slowing down.
“Nobody is resting, which would be pretty easy to do given (our) leadership position,” Bezos said
During the business portion of the meeting, shareholders voted along with the company recommendation on all items up for a vote.
Members of Amazon’s board of directors were all re-elected.
Three shareholder-initiated proposals that would have pushed Amazon to disclose more about its corporate-citizenship activities were rejected, though by slimmer margins than are typical in the sometimes rubber-stamp world of shareholder democracy.
A proposal to compel Amazon to disclose more about its environmental, social and governance goals received the support of 25 percent of voting shareholders. A separate measure that would have required the company to report on its initiatives to prevent human-rights abuses garnered support from 23 percent of voters.
Less popular was a proposal for Amazon to disclose political and industry campaign spending. It received about 5 percent of votes.
For a company not known for its outreach to the community, and sometimes criticized for its treatment of its own workforce, Amazon received credit from shareholders at Tuesday’s meeting for its role in the Seattle area.
More than one shareholder thanked Bezos for Amazon’s decision, announced last month, to convert an unused hotel it owns near its corporate campus into a temporary homeless shelter.
The meeting also drew some protests. About 20 people outside the event space in the Fremont neighborhood stood silently, holding signs criticizing the sale of foie gras, a luxury food made from the liver of ducks subjected to heavily criticized feeding practices, on Amazon’s website.
Asked inside the meeting whether the company would stop selling foie gras in the U.S., Bezos was noncommittal, saying the company has a team designated with deciding what to sell and exclude.
“It’s unfortunate that after three years (of advocacy), they’re still dragging their feet on this,” Jaya Bhumitra, who works with Mercy for Animals, said after the meeting.
Separately, an employee of a security firm stood during the meeting to criticize Amazon for what he said was a failure to adequately supervise Security Industry Specialists, a contractor that staffs security roles at the Amazon’s corporate headquarters. That firm last year settled a complaint brought by the city of Seattle that it had failed to meet paid-sick leave requirements.
If Amazon couldn’t catch that lapse so near its headquarters, he said, what’s to stop abuses at the Asian factories making the company’s hardware?