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Amazon earnings: Q4 sales topped $100 billion for the first time, Bezos to step down as CEO

Emily McCormick
·Reporter
·4 min read
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Amazon (AMZN) reported another round of record-setting quarterly results on Tuesday, as consumers still under stay-in-place restrictions turned in droves to the e-commerce platform, especially over the holiday shopping season. Shares fluctuated between slight gains and losses in late trading.

The company also said that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will step down from his role and transition to executive chair of the company as of the third quarter of 2021. Andy Jassy, who currently leads Amazon Web Services, is set to take over as CEO of the company.

Here’s what the company reported in its fiscal fourth-quarter results, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:

  • 4Q Revenue: $125.56 billion vs. $119.70 billion expected and $87.44 billion year-over-year

  • 4Q Earnings per share: $14.09 vs. $7.34 expected

Amazon brought in more than $100 billion in revenue for the first time in company history, joining Apple (AAPL), which crossed that milestone in its own earnings results last week. It also expects to hover over that threshold in the current quarter, and anticipates first-quarter net sales will come in between $100 billion and $106 billion.

The company’s core e-commerce portion of the business received a number of boosts at the end of last year, including an ongoing consumer shift to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic and sales from Amazon’s blockbuster Prime Day. The event was shifted to October from July this year due to disruptions from the virus.

Plus, Amazon said in early December that the 2020 holiday shopping season had been its biggest yet, as customers increasingly purchased goods while restrictions remained in place on travel, dining out and other leisure activities. While Amazon did not break out exact gross merchandise value across the platform for Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the company did note that its third-party sellers grew sales by about 60% year-over-year during each of these events.

Outside of e-commerce, other closely watched areas of Amazon’s business performed well in the final three months of the year, also aided by stay-in-place restrictions during the pandemic. Amazon Web Services (AWS) grew quarterly sales 28% to $12.74 billion. That year-over-year growth rate held roughly steady versus the third quarter but slowed over 2019, as the segment matures as the U.S. market share leader in cloud web hosting. And AWS operating income grew even more strongly, jumping 37% to nearly $3.6 billion.

Amazon managed to grow profits strongly across the company even after vowing to funnel even more capital back into the business to sustain its growth and increase safety for its workers during the pandemic. Company-wide operating income grew 77% to $6.87 billion in the fourth quarter, handily topping estimates for $4.47 billion. In October, Amazon said its fourth-quarter operating income would come in between $1.0 billion and $4.5 billion, when factoring in costs of about $4.0 billion in costs related to COVID-19.

Amazon fulfilment center in Sosnowiec, Poland on 13 May, 2019. The fifth Amazon fulfilment center in Poland is built in the Upper Silesia region. The property totalling 135,000 sqm is built on a 21-hectare site near Panattoni Park Sosnowiec. Amazons  fulfilment centre in Sosnowiec is adapted to the high-bay storage system and dedicated to the distribution of shoes and clothes in Western Europe.  (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Amazon fulfilment center in Sosnowiec, Poland on 13 May, 2019. The fifth Amazon fulfilment center in Poland is built in the Upper Silesia region. The property totalling 135,000 sqm is built on a 21-hectare site near Panattoni Park Sosnowiec. Amazons fulfilment centre in Sosnowiec is adapted to the high-bay storage system and dedicated to the distribution of shoes and clothes in Western Europe. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Amazon said operating income will likely come in between $3.0 billion and $6.5 billion for the current quarter, including costs of about $2 billion related to COVID-19.

Some strategists noted that Amazon may be hard-pressed to top its 2020 performance, as consumer spending broadens back out as pandemic-era lockdown restrictions ease. The three biggest points to watch for investors in Amazon this year will be the magnitude of any revenue deceleration in 2021, the extent to which Amazon’s virus-related expenses extend into this year and the strength of AWS growth, JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth said in a note last week. On the low end, Amazon’s first-quarter projected revenue range of $100 billion would represent growth of 33% over last year, or a modest slowdown compared to the fourth quarter.

Still, Anmuth added, “We remain bullish on Amazon, with strong e-commerce and public cloud trends continuing to date and Amazon well-positioned as the clear leader in both.”

Shares of Amazon have increased 66% over the past year, and 4% since last reporting earnings results in late October.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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