Book sales shore up Amazon's Q2 losses

Amazon.com Inc. narrowed its losses for the second quarter of 2002, thanks to strong growth in book sales, the company said Tuesday, but still remained staunchly in the red.

The company reported a net loss of US$94 million for the quarter ended June 30, or $0.25 a share, compared to a net loss of $168 million, or $0.47 a share in the year-ago quarter.

Second quarter revenue came in at $806 million, compared to $668 million during the same quarter last year, representing a 21 percent increase.

The company posted a pro forma loss of $4 million, or $0.01 a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call predicted a pro forma loss of $0.06 a share.

The results come after the Internet bellwether reported its first ever net profit for the fourth quarter of last year, and then slid back into the red the following quarter. Although the company said Tuesday that its slimmer losses were due to strong book sales, other efforts to shore up revenue have fallen short.

Riding high from its fourth-quarter 2001 profit, the company permanently extended a free shipping offer it began during the holiday season, but soon faced stiff competition from a handful of rivals who jumped onto the free shipping bandwagon.

Buy.com Inc. began offering free shipping on certain orders and then went one step further, promising to undercut Amazon's book prices by 10 percent. Although it's difficult to say how competitive efforts like these have affected Amazon, the company has made moves recently to broaden its business.

Amazon recently began beta-testing a feature that displays mail-order catalogs and restaurant menus on its site. And earlier this month the Seattle company unveiled Web services allowing Web site developers and owners build applications and tools so that they can incorporate Amazon's offerings into their sites. [See, "Amazon extends its reach with Web services"July 16.]While these moves might offer the company a cash injection in the future, investors appeared leery Tuesday of Amazon's present outlook. Shares in Amazon (AMZN) dipped 6 percent to close at $14.57 before the second-quarter results were released.

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