Amazon’s sales surge 44% as it smashes earnings expectations

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Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
Katherine Taylor | Reuters

Amazon is set to report first quarter earnings after the bell Thursday.

Here’s what analysts are expecting: 

  • Earnings: $9.54 per share, according to Refinitiv
  • Revenue: $104.47 billion, according to Refinitiv

Few companies have benefited from the pandemic-fueled surge of online shopping as much as Amazon. The company notched record profits and revenue last year, while CEO Jeff Bezos announced earlier this month that Amazon crossed more than 200 million Prime subscribers, up from 150 million at the start of 2020.

Wall Street’s forecast for the first quarter suggests that analysts don’t believe that momentum has let up for the e-commerce giant, even as vaccine rollout has accelerated and more states have lifted their coronavirus restrictions. Amazon is also expected to continue showing growth in its cloud-computing and advertising businesses.

Any guidance given by the company could indicate whether Amazon believes growth will moderate post-pandemic, due to shoppers making fewer purchases online and more trips to the store. Online marketplaces eBay and Etsy, as well as Shopify, which makes online tools for businesses, saw their businesses buoyed by the pandemic and now face similar questions from investors.

In 2020, Amazon invested heavily on coronavirus-related measures like safety protocols and wage increases for front-line workers. As a result of these costs, Amazon last quarter forecast operating income of $3 billion to $6.5 billion in the current period. Those coronavirus-related costs are expected to slow this year, although on Wednesday, Amazon said it would spent more than $1 billion on pay raises for more than half a million of its U.S. operations workers.

Another focus will be any commentary on Bezos’ plans to step down in the third quarter. The Amazon founder will turn the helm over to AWS CEO Andy Jassy and transition into the role of executive chairman of Amazon’s board. This quarter, Bezos made broad promises to do better by Amazon’s employees in his final shareholder letter.

Investors are also watching for any hints on timing for this year’s Prime Day. The two-day discount event, typically set in July, was pushed to October last year due to uncertainties around the pandemic. Recode reported earlier this month that Amazon may hold Prime Day in June, possibly to boost year-over-year comparisons for revenue in the second quarter.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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