It looks like the price target battle that was going on among Wall Street analysts is over. That is, except one firm that has raised its target so high that it’s unlikely any other firm will dare to go, at least not any time soon due to Thursday night’s earnings report. In addition to the huge miss on the bottom line, investors were spooked by the holiday quarter guidance and sent Amazon shares tumbling as a result.
Same song for Amazon, different quarter
Susquehanna analyst Shyam Patil raised his price target for the stock from $950 to a massive $1,250 per share, which is the highest target we’ve seen. The new target price comes as he pushes his valuation out to 2017. He reiterated his Positive rating and said that this is basically a repeat of what the online retailer has done before.
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Amazon posted earnings of 52 cents per share, an increase from the year-ago quarter’s 17 cents per share but a significant miss against the consensus of 76 cents per share. Revenue was just ahead of estimates, however, coming in at $32.71 billion versus Wall Street’s $32.67 billion.
Patil noted in his report to investors after last night’s release that profitability has entered the conversation again. The online retailer has been known to invest heavily in future growth, but this year it looked like things were changing—at least until the third quarter print. Patil notes that the investment was heavier than “normal” and said he expects this to continue for a while but “remain lumpy.” However, he also argues that it makes sense because Amazon faces big opportunities in both e-commerce and the cloud.
Amazon’s outlook disappoints
The company guided for fourth quarter revenue to be between $42 billion and $45 billion, which Patil called “fine” because it bracketed both his estimate and consensus. However, investors were clearly disappointed because the consolidated segment operating income outlook appears to suggest that the heavy investing continues.
He explained that the high end of CSOI is implied at about $2.1 billion, compared to the consensus of $2.5 billion and his own estimate of $2.2 billion. What is even worse than the high end is the low end of the CSOI outlook, which is $0 and sets a massive range. Amazon management is pouring capital into digital content, even more fulfillment centers and investments in India during the current quarter. Despite all the investments, the analyst noted that Amazon has outperformed the high end of its CSOI guidance in five of the last seen quarters.
CNBC’s Jim Cramer echoed Patil’s sentiment, noting that Amazon is just following its typical pattern of capital allocation. As a result, he advises investors not to worry about all the spending. He noted in a video posted on The Street that the same thing happens about every four or five quarters and that once again “people are freaking out.” He also expects a repeat of the second half of the usual cycle again, meaning that investors will look back at this and realize that the investments were wise ones.
Amazon also earns price target cuts
In addition to Susquehanna’s massive price target increase, Amazon also picked up some price target cuts. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney slashed his target to $950 from $1,000 but maintained his Outperform rating. On CNBC’s Squawk Alley, he referred to today’s pull back as a “buy on the blip moment” because the shares are 4% off their all-time high with a rally of more than 20% in the year. He called it an “okay” buying opportunity although not a “great” one.
JPMorgan analysts also cut their target for Amazon shares, moving from $1,000 to $975. Shares of Amazon declined by as much as 5% to $777.41 during regular trading hours on Friday.