The cumulative total of profits at Amazon since the first quarter of 2012 is $3.8 billion. Contrast that with Facebook which made $3.9 billion in its latest quarter alone.
And yet the markets value Amazon more highly than they do Facebook – okay, the difference is small, Facebook is valued at $494 billion, around six billion less than Amazon.
You have to feel sorry for Mark Zuckerberg, his company may have made almost 20 times more profit than Amazon in the latest quarter, and yet his net wealth is a mere $73 or so billion, around $15 billion less than Bezos.
So why is Mr B so rich, while Mr Z is struggling to make his first $80 billion?
It boils down to potential, and maybe the cloud.
Amazon may not be making much of a profit, but revenue rose 25 per cent on the year before, enjoying $38 billion in sales.
But it is the web services division, (AWS) that is where the company is seeing the fastest growth, and this division is profitable, too. Operating income at this division hit $916 million, which was greater than the operating income for the entire company – in short, if it wasn’t for the Cloud, Amazon would have made a loss in the quarter.
So why such a high valuation?
As Brian Olsavsky, the company’s CFO said: “Q3 is generally a high investment period.”
The company has
• Launched a Prime Now service in Singapore• Is exploring opportunities in health care technology and pharmaceuticals• Announced a forthcoming merger with US firm Whole Foods, which will cost $14 billion• Launched new Echo devices
Amazon’s growth comes at a time when mainstream retail is struggling in the US and there are fears that regulators are beginning to question if the company is becoming too powerful.
It is odd how Amazon is moving into conventional retail.
Does Amazon’s result history suggest it is overvalued?
Not necessarily – investors have become used to this, all the hope lies with the long term.
But a company’s value is meant to be a function of future dividends, discounted to give a net current value. At some point, Amazon will have to make profits in the tens of billions of dollars to justify the current valuation.
And credit to the markets for putting such a value on long term thinking. If nothing else, it shows that the tyranny of quarterly accounting can be overthrown – the company still has to report on a quarterly basis, but valuation suggests the markets feel the importance is limited.
But don’t be surprised, if, by the time the year is up, it is Mark Zuckerberg who is homing in on Bill Gates for the title, richest man in the world.