The initial public offering of Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) should remind investors what a great business Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) is. Both market cloud services and business-to-business products, and are huge e-commerce portals. Alibaba has the Chinese markets wrapped up the way Amazon does America’s. However, it is nowhere near that simple for investors. Amazon trades at $323, against a 52-week high of $408.
Wall Street is still anxious about what it sees as relentless and reckless risk-taking by founder Jeff Bezos. This is nowhere more evident than in Amazon’s most recent quarterly statement, opponents of Amazon’s strategies say. Revenue rose 23% to $19.3 billion. However, the company lost $126 million, which is very difficult to do on such huge sales. And Amazon forecast the bottom line will not get much better soon:
- Net sales are expected to be between $19.7 billion and $21.5 billion, or to grow between 15% and 26% compared with third quarter 2013.
- Operating loss is expected to be between $810 million and $410 million, compared to $25 million in third quarter 2013.
- This guidance includes approximately $410 million for stock-based compensation and amortization of intangible assets, and it assumes, among other things, that no additional business acquisitions, investments, restructurings, or legal settlements are concluded and that there are no further revisions to stock-based compensation estimates.
Wall Street has, for the most part, not been dazzled by Bezos’s drones and Fire Phone, which some carriers sells for as little as $0.99 with longer term wireless contracts. Amazon has also cut the price of its Amazon FiveTV to $84 from $99. And Amazon keeps secret how many units of its hardware like the Kindle Fire its sells and how many subscribers it has to its Prime Package of streaming video, which also offers some levels of free shipping.
Amazon, worriers believe, has turned itself from a money-making e-commerce business into a lab for experiments about streaming video and consumer electronics.
Investors more inclined to support the company claim that Bezos is a visionary who has made huge bets in the past and won most of them. That sort of string of success only attracts stock buyers if they believe that lightning can strike in the same place more than once.