亚马逊的最新财报反映了该公司的积极变化。2011年第四财季，亚马逊并未达到分析师预期，导致其股价随后暴跌了9%。而纵观2011年全年，亚马逊净利润从2010年的14亿美元暴跌至6.31亿美元，市场担忧随之而来。亚马逊业绩告急很大程度是因为它对新交付中心的投资，以及Kindle Fire平板电脑等硬件产品的销售。尤其是Kindle Fire，分析人士普遍认为它是亚马逊亏钱的根源所在。
亚马逊现在的情形并不陌生。投资公司Caris & Company的分析师斯科特•蒂尔曼对路透社（Reuters）称：“我们现在所看到的情况和2004年到2006年期间的情形很相似。亚马逊当时进行了大量投资，结果导致利润收窄。但在随后的数年，亚马逊的利润率开始增长，而营收也随之发力。鉴于亚马逊目前的规模，我们也许不会再看到其营收出现当时那样的大幅增长，但目前看来，亚马逊有能力提高利润率。”
根据昨天发布的营收报告，许多分析师认为亚马逊高风险的数字战略正在奏效，而且最新数据显示，亚马逊媒体业务正在增长，表明用户（包括新的Kindle Fire用户）所购买的电子书、电影和电视节目数量正在增长。另一方面，调研机构康姆斯科（comScore）最近发布报告指出，Kindle Fire目前占据了美国Android平板电脑市场54%的份额。亚马逊首席财务官汤姆•斯库达在营收电话会议上对分析师说：“消费者正在大量购买内容。可以看到，这一趋势有增无减。”
Can Amazon, which has long relied on low profit margins, prove its long-term strategy will pay off? If its latest quarterly earnings are any indication, there's certainly a good deal of reason to think so.
In the first quarter, revenues were $13.2 billion with operating income of $192 million. Both figures easily trumped Wall Street's predictions of less than $13 billion in revenues and operating income of just $186 million. The surprise sent shares up 14% after-hours. "Revenues came in higher than expectations -- not at the higher end of guidance -- but even better than what people thought," says ThinkEquity analyst Ronald Josey. "More importantly, their operating income blew away most people's expectations."
Amazon's (AMZN) latest earnings reflect a positive turn. In the fourth quarter 2011, the company missed estimates, which was initially met by a 9% drop in shares. Concerns also arose when Amazon's annual net income fell sharply from $1.4 billion in 2010 to $631 million in 2011. Much of that was due to Amazon's investment in new fulfillment centers, as well as hardware like the Kindle Fire tablet. In particular, the Fire is widely believed by analysts to be a device the company is losing money on.
This isn't Amazon's first trip to the dance, though. "They are very similar to what we saw back in the 2004 to 2006 timeframe when the company was making a lot of investments and margins got squeezed," Caris & Company analyst Scott Tilghman told Reuters. "Then in the years following, margins expanded and revenue accelerated. ... We might not see quite as much of an acceleration on the revenue, given the size of the company, but it does look like they have the ability to generate the margins."
In light of yesterday's earnings announcement, many analysts believe Amazon's risky digital strategy is working, and that the latest numbers indicating growth in the company's media business mean users -- including new Fire owners -- are buying more e-books, movies, and television shows. To wit, research firm comScore recently reported that the Fire now accounts for nearly 54% of all Android tablets in the U.S. "Customers are buying a lot of content," Amazon chief financial officer Tom Szkutak said during an earnings call with analysts. "You're seeing that accelerate."
No one expects the firm's tight margins to fatten up in the coming months, however. Analysts from Goldman Sachs expect Amazon to continue robust investments in fulfillment, technology, content and expanding its Kindle line through the rest of 2012. At the very least, it remains on track to open 13 more fulfillment centers this year. According to Josey, it generally takes two or three years for those fulfillment centers to operate at expected efficiency levels and thus two or three years for them to boost Amazon's margins, rather than constrict them. In other words, the warehouses built this year likely won't have a positive, material impact on the company's bottom line until 2014.