Where Market Share Trumps Profits

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Analysts and pundits (ahem!) are spending a good part of Friday morning extolling the virtues of the earnings report from Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) that was released after markets closed the previous night. The general consensus seems to be that the company is poised for world domination by 2020 at the latest.

So when did analysts develop the visual acuity to see beyond the next three months? As we noted in our report on the company’s earnings, Amazon’s third-quarter operating margin was a scant 0.9%. Even for retailers, that is a pretty low number. Mega-retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) posted an operating margin, excluding fuel sales, of 3.8% in its second quarter. Family Dollar Stores Inc. (NYSE: FDO) posted an adjusted operating margin of 6% in its most recent quarter. Only grocery store chain Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) posted an operating margin at the same level as Amazon.

Yet over the past five years, Amazon’s share price has risen by nearly 650%, compared with a rise of 180% at Family Dollar, 60% at Safeway and 42% at Walmart.

Okay, so maybe Amazon’s stock is a bit frothy, but here is what some analysts told Reuters this morning:

  • We’re increasingly positive on Amazon shares, given strong revenue growth with accelerations in media and EGM (electronics and general merchandise), both in North America and International. — J.P. Morgan
  • We see consistent margin expansion, continuing through at least 2014, helping support Amazon’s seemingly lofty valuation. — Benchmark Capital
  • Amazon appears to be gaining share at a more rapid pace while still investing heavily in tech and content, fulfillment capacity and international market development. — Stifel Nicolaus

No hint of short-term gain. Everyone is willing to let Amazon play the long game. Furthermore, they believe the company will not only succeed but eventually dominate.

Amazon shares were up nearly 9% Friday morning to $361.93, after posting a new all-time high of $368.37. The 52-week low is $218.18.