Some analysts estimate Amazon Web Services will account for about one-third of the tech and retail giant’s operating profit in the fourth quarter. That could feed hopes that the cloud business could this year surpass retail as Amazon’s biggest source of profit.
Wall Street is gearing up for its quarterly close look at Amazon.com Thursday, pinning high hopes on the continued profitability of the company’s cloud-storage business.
Some analysts estimate Amazon Web Services (AWS), whose detailed results Amazon started reporting last year, will account for about one-third of the tech and retail giant’s operating profit.
And that’s for the holiday quarter, usually when retailers make the most. If that’s the case, it could help support the thesis that AWS is on its way to becoming Amazon’s main moneymaker, especially as many observers think cloud adoption by enterprises is still in its early stages.
The year 2016 “is lining up to be the year that AWS profitability starts to surpass retail,” analysts with RBC Capital Markets wrote in a research note.
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On average, Wall Street expects Amazon to bring in $36 billion in revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31, up 22.7 percent from a year earlier. That would bring total annual revenue to $107.25 billion, up 20.5 percent from 2014.
The average earnings estimate is $1.62 per share vs. 45 cents in the previous year.
Amazon’s own guidance is typically vague. Its revenue estimates for the quarter range between $33.5 billion and $36.75 billion. As for operating profit, it says it could range from $80 million to $1.28 billion, compared with $591 million in the fourth quarter of 2014.
For Amazon’s fourth quarter, RBC Capital expects AWS to bring in profit of $546 million on $2.2 billion in revenue, a strong 25 percent margin compared with the 5.5 percent margin it assigns to the North American retail segment, the company’s biggest and most profitable unit. RBC expects that segment to post $1.2 billion in operating profit.
International sales are expected, in the other hand, to post a $120 million loss driven by Amazon’s big investments in growing its foreign operations.
Goldman Sachs estimates 47 percent of Amazon’s profits will come from the cloud business in 2016.
That said, putting all the chips on AWS has its risks over time if increasing competition in the market for cloud services makes these cheaper, said analysts with brokerage BGC.
Even if the money AWS generates commands a lot of attention, Amazon’s retail core is certainly expected to post healthy growth.
On Monday, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated U.S. membership in Amazon Prime, the company’s delivery and other services benefit, rose 35 percent to reach 54 million during the last holiday season. That’s important because those members spend nearly twice as much on the website as nonmembers do.
Amazon has also dropped hints of a successful holiday run: It said Cyber Monday sales rose 40 percent year over year.
Items shipped by third-party sellers using the Fulfillment by Amazon service grew 60 percent, a faster clip than the 50 percent growth seen in the two previous years. Sales of the Echo, a voice-controlled computing device that doubles as a home speaker, and the Fire tablet are expected to bump up sales.
Whatever the case, investors can expect earnings-day volatility in Amazon shares, which Tuesday closed at $601.25, up 0.79 percent. BGC, the brokerage, says shares have moved at least 6 percent following earnings in the past seven quarters.
Amazon will hold its earnings call Thursday at 2 p.m.