Thursday, April 24, 2014

Amazon Q1 income up 32% on brisk sales, the giant online retailer that is rapidly expanding into digital media and hardware, said Thursday its first-quarter net income rose 32% from a year ago to $108 million as it registered higher sales in all major product lines.

Its diluted earnings of 23 cents per share matched estimates of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Net sales increased 23% to $19.7 billion from the same quarter a year ago.

The results were announced after markets closed. Amazon shares inched up 0.52% in after-hours trading, to $338.89.

Amazon still generates a vast majority of its revenue by selling electronic goods and other items — sales of those rose 27% to $13 billion. Sales of media items, including digital files, are growing at a rapid clip, up 8% to $5.5 billion, amid heavy competition from Apple, Google and other giants.

Amazon's profit margins have usually been thin, given its heritage as an online retailer. And that isn't likely to change because it continues to invest heavily in other areas that normally would be found in Silicon Valley, including Internet hosting services, cloud computing, tablets and even video game development. Total expenses rose 23% to $19.6 billion, including nearly $2 billion on technology and content.

As usual, the Seattle-based company did not release detailed figures about sales of its Kindle line of tablets and e-readers, as well its Prime Instant Video service, the $99 annual membership that includes two-day delivery and some free streaming of TV and movies.

The company expects second-quarter net sales to be between $18.1 billion and $19.8 billion, or to grow between 15% and 26%, compared with second quarter 2013.

Amazon also expects an operating loss next quarter of $55 million to $455 million, compared with income of $79 million last year.

"I'm somewhat surprised the stock is trading up," said Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities. "Revenue guidance is great ... but they expect an operating loss in (second quarter)."

T! he first quarter was an eventful one for the online retailer-turned Net content provider. Before it announced its earnings, Amazon said Prime subscribers could use a new grocery-delivery service called Prime Pantry to get a 45-pound box of groceries shipped for a flat rate of $5.99.

On Wednesday, the company struck an agreement with HBO to stream the cable network's popular, previously aired shows for Prime subscribers. As part of that deal, HBO Go will come to Amazon's new $99 Fire TV set-top box it brought to market earlier this month. Fire TV delivers streaming video from Amazon and other sources, including Netflix and Hulu.

And last month, Amazon told its 25 million Prime members that it was raising the annual fee from $79 to $99; that took effect April 17. "2014 is off to a kinetic start," said Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos in a statement accompanying earnings.

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