Amazon's Q4 revenue and net income grow

Amazon.com posted solid growth in revenue and net income during its 2004 fourth quarter, but missed financial analysts' earnings expectations.

Amazon's net revenue came in at US$2.54 billion in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, an increase of 31 percent compared with 2003's fourth quarter, the Seattle company said in a statement Wednesday. The online retailer exceeded the consensus forecast of US$2.44 billion from analysts polled by Thomson First Call. Excluding an US$85 million benefit from foreign exchange rates, net revenue grew 26 percent during the quarter.

Meanwhile, Amazon had net income of US$347 million, or US$0.82 per share, up from US$73 million, or US$0.17 per share. Pro forma net income, which excludes, among other things, stock-based compensation and the benefit from a US$244 million deferred tax asset, was US$149 million, or US$0.35 per share, below analysts' consensus expectation of US$0.40 per share.

Amazon also introduced on Wednesday a membership program called Amazon Prime, which, for a flat fee of US$79 per year, gives members free, unlimited, two-day shipping without a minimum purchase requirement. Amazon Prime also offers members one-day overnight shipping for US$3.99 per item. Members can extend their benefits to up to four family members living in their house.

"Two-day shipping becomes an everyday experience rather than an occasional indulgence," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive officer, in a statement.

Bezos acknowledged Amazon Prime will be expensive for the company in the short term, but he said in the statement that it will provide a "significant benefit" and convenience for customers.

For the full year, Amazon had US$6.92 billion in net revenue, compared with US$5.26 billion in 2003, for growth of 31 percent. Excluding the benefit of foreign exchange rates, net revenue grew 26 percent. Net income for the year came in at US$588 million, or US$1.39 per share, up from US$35 million, or US$0.08 per share in 2003.

Looking ahead, Amazon expects net revenue to be in the range of US$1.80 billion to US$1.95 billion in 2005's first quarter, which would mean growth of between 18 percent and 27 percent compared with 2004's first quarter. For the full year, Amazon expects net revenue in the range of US$8.05 billion and US$8.65 billion, which would represent growth of between 16 percent and 25 percent.

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