Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is usually called the "Wal-Mart of the Internet Age." But one big difference between Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) and Amazon is that the Jeff Bezos-led company has never earned a healthy profit in its 20-year history. Its P/E ratio has occasionally topped 2,500. But investors didn't care about its profits. The stock has gained more than 250% in the last five years as its revenues continued to soar.
Investors finally shift focus from Amazon's revenues to earnings
But that seems to be changing. Last week, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) reported a 23% growth in its first quarter revenues, topping Wall Street forecasts. In the past, solid revenues have been enough to drive the online retailer's stock higher. Even on Thursday, April 24, shares soared in after-hours trading. But then investors shifted their focus on earnings, which they have been ignoring for the past 20 years. And the stock tanked more than 9% on Friday.
Though the Seattle-based company reported Q1 revenues of $19.74 billion, its operating income plunged 19% to $146 million. For the current quarter, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) forecasts 13-24% growth in revenue, but operating losses could be as high as $200 million. It's the second consecutive quarter Amazon's shares have plummeted after results. On January 31, the stock plunged 11% after the company's revenues and earnings missed the Wall Street forecasts.
Even after the last week's decline, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) shares remain expensive with a price-to-earnings ratio of 465. Investors and analysts have long been baffled by the company's lofty valuation. But everyone agrees that betting against Amazon has always turned out to be a big mistake in the long-term. Many analysts cut their rating on Friday after disappointing results. But before Q1 earnings, they were mostly bullish on the stock with 35 of 44 analysts rating Amazon a Buy or Strong Buy.
Amazon's growth rate is slowing, but it's still a compelling growth story
Two years ago, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)'s growth rate was above 40%. Now it has fallen close to 20%. There are many other Internet companies growing at more than 20%, and they are relatively cheaper. So, is Amazon's 20-year honeymoon with investors over? Perhaps not so soon, says James B. Stewart of The New York Times.
The recent decline in the stock could be another buying opportunity rather than the reversal of a 20-year trend. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney still has an Outperform rating on the stock, though he lowered his price target to $400. Mahaney still sees Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) as a compelling growth story. The online retailer accounts for just 2% of global retail sales. Its lower market penetration indicates that its long-term growth will be more robust than Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG).
Mahaney says investors trust Jeff Bezos. He is the guy who successfully created devices even when Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) was just a retailer. The company has been successful in cloud computing. Recently, Amazon entered a deal with HBO to challenge Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX). People believe that Bezos has the ability to catch the latest trend.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) has made significant long-term bets that paid off. And Bezos is willing to sacrifice short-term earnings in favor of long-term growth. Mark Mahaney says you can't put an exact valuation on Amazon, but it will be much bigger five years from now.