Technology

Did Amazon Really Deserve Analyst Downgrade to Sell After Great Earnings?

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) managed to show that the company can start caring about earnings and operating margin again. The levels of profitability and margin may be extremely low compared to other tech giants and to companies that are now 20 years old, but the effort seemed much better than what investors have seen lately from Amazon. It also blew away earnings estimates. So, why did one analyst downgrade Amazon to a dreadful Sell rating?

S&P Capital IQ’s Tuna Amobi downgraded Amazon to a Sell from an already cautious Hold rating on Friday. The move came after the shares popped higher from the earnings news. Amobi said:

We see potential downside to the shares, up some 11% on Q4 results that exceeded tempered expectations. With significantly higher fulfillment and peripheral costs (e.g. Web Services, Prime Video content), we trim 2015 earnings per share estimate by $0.84 to $0.44 and set 16’s at $3.19. We are wary of a slowdown in the international unit and the overall media business, and see continuing pressures on key performance metrics such as ROIC, operating margins and free cash flow. Our 12-month target stays $300, on 2016E EV/EBITDA of 12.8X and P/E of 94X, relatively ample to Internet retail peers.

Not everyone in the analyst community agreed that Amazon should be downgraded. In fact, most analysts released positive reports and price target hikes after the report.

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Bank of America Merrill Lynch not only maintained its Buy rating, but it raised its price target to $400 from its previous target of $360. The report cited the strong gross margin, as well as what should be significantly higher revenue growth and option value on multiple strategic initiatives ahead.

24/7 Wall St. has viewed many other analyst notes, and here are the key drivers that interested investors the most about the Amazon earnings report:

  • Revenue was $29.33 billion, compared to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimate of $29.67 billion. Earnings per share came to $0.45, versus the consensus estimate of $0.17.
  • Amazon gave guidance for the first quarter as net sales in the range of $20.9 billion to $22.9 billion, compared to a consensus estimate of $23.05 billion in revenue.
  • Operating margin for Amazon in the fourth quarter was 2%.
  • Overall net sales increased 18% from the previous year. Net sales for North American segment grew 22% from the same period in the previous year to $18.7 billion. Net sales for the International segment were up only 3% to $10.6 billion.

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Other analyst report summaries worth noting were as follows:

  • Baird (Outperform) raised its target to $380 from $340.
  • Canaccord Genuity (Hold) raised its target to $330 from $300.
  • Credit Suisse (Outperform) raised its target to $410 from $389.
  • CRT Capital (Hold) raised its target to $375 from $325.
  • Deutsche Bank (Buy) raised its target to $410 from $350.
  • Evercore (Buy) raised its target to $415 from $340.
  • Macquarie (Buy) raised target to $430 from $360.
  • Oppenheimer (Outperform) raised its target to $415 from $396.
  • Topeka Capital Markets (Buy) raised its target to $410 from $350.
  • Wells Fargo reiterated Outperform and valuation range of $387 to $408.

Amazon shares closed up 13.7% to $354.53 Friday, against a 52-week trading range of $284.00 to $383.11.