Shares of Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) closed Friday at $1,642.81. The last time the shares closed near that price was June 1. On September 4, the stock closed at a high of $2,039.51, just short of an all-time high of $2,050.50. That was the same day that Amazon joined Apple in the Trillion Dollar Club.
To say that Amazon has disrupted the retail sector is, perhaps, barely adequate. With its twin focuses on growth and customer service, the company has turned the brick-and-mortar retail sector inside out. And Amazon is more than shopping. Its Echo devices have captured about 80% of the market for voice-controlled devices, and Amazon Web Services has posted 2018 revenue to date of $18.23 billion, more than in all of 2017. For the current fiscal year, analysts forecast revenue of $234.88 billion and have a 12-month consensus price target on the stock of $2,169.21. The forward price-to-earnings ratio on the stock is a staggering 65.14.
What drove the stock price from around $1,640 to $2,050? And is there something that could push the stock back to that level in just three months, as happened between early June and early September?
Because Amazon is constantly introducing new services, it’s hard to pinpoint just one or two that could have juiced the share price by 25%. But if we had to pick two, our choices would be the acquisition of PillPack on June 28 and Prime Day, July 16 and 17.
PillPack is a pharmacy designed to provide the best possible customer experience in the United States for people who take multiple daily prescriptions, delivering medications in presorted dose packaging, coordinating refills and renewals, and making sure shipments are sent on time.
Amazon paid $753 million for PillPack and poses a major disruption to the pharmacy business. PillPack also serves some of the same functions as pharmacy benefits management (PBM) or distribution companies. Anytime Amazon makes a move into a new business, investors pay serious attention. The company’s share price did not shoot higher on the announced acquisition, but from a closing price on June 28 of around $1,701, shares rose by more than $140 by Prime Day.
Aside from sales of more than 100 million products on Prime Day, Amazon certainly increased its Prime membership numbers, although the company does not reveal specific totals. That’s important because Prime members spend more than twice as much annually as non-Prime members.
According to a recent estimate, Prime added about 2 million U.S. members in the third quarter, pushing the U.S. total to about 97 million. That’s more than 75% of all U.S. households at the end of last year. New members are going to have to come from outside the United States, and Amazon will have to focus on Prime memberships, especially in India where Walmart is putting up a strong fight with its majority investment in online retailer Flipkart.
Amazon’s global empire covers virtually the same portion of the planet as that of the British Empire at its peak in 1920. There remain opportunities for the e-commerce giant, particularly in Africa and India. Progress in turning those opportunities into revenue is probably the key to pushing the share price toward that consensus price target. Stay tuned.