So Much for All Those Sell Ratings on Amazon.com

Posted by: Rob Hof on April 24, 2007

Amazon.com continues to confound analysts and investors with its spending on new technologies and free shipping, but at least in the first quarter, it did so on the upside. With a 32% jump in sales, to more than $3 billion, and net profits up 115%, to $111 million, Amazon for now has put critics’ concerns to rest—OK, some of them.

There’s no indication that Amazon’s big investments in Web services, such its storage and computing services, are paying off yet. They’re still in investment mode, and despite early enthusiasm by startups and others using them, they’re much longer-term bets.

I think the overall outlook, though, is what’s really cheering investors. Amazon hiked its revenue forecast for the year to between $13.4 billion to $14 billion, up from the previous forecast of $13 billion to $13.7 billion, and raised its operating-profit forecast to $463 million to $593 million, or up 19% to 52%. For Amazon, usually pretty conservative on estimates, those are significant boosts.

And about those 10 sell ratings and 11 holds—including a downgrade to sell by Piper Jaffray Monday? Not looking so smart now, as after-hours trading sends Amazon’s stock up 12%. They may be all the less smart since Amazon itself bought 6 million shares for $248 million during the quarter, and announced a new two-year, $500 million buyback plan.

Update: Man oh man: Stock’s up over 20% today—and several of those analysts are eating their former sell ratings.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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