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What Blowout Earnings Say About Big Tech

The latest earnings show that tech giants continue to exploit their dominance—to Wall Street’s amazement.

Amazon’s revenue, reported on Thursday evening, came in about $2 billion above the high end of its own forecast, while its profit of 53 cents crushed estimates of about seven cents. The upside was enough to vault the stock 13% higher, to a new all-time high close of $1,100.95, the first time the stock had ever crossed over $1,000.

At the heart of the report was a speedup in Amazon’s online sales, which rose 22% versus 20% a year earlier. That speedup was at least in part a result of Amazon offering more goods to customers in its loyalty program, Amazon Prime, which features free shipping and other benefits, such as free music and video downloads.

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The more they shop in the Amazon world, the more people make it a habit of shopping there, in other words. There’s more room for Prime to work its magic, writes Lee. Such Prime-eligible products are only 13% of all the items that Amazon carries worldwide, by his estimate. But Prime members are 25% of Amazon’s customer base.

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Google cost to bring in advertisers—known as the “traffic acquisition cost,” or TAC—keeps rising faster than its revenue. But the amount of advertising revenue that Google brings in—$24 billion last quarter—is still so large that it ended up delivering profit that was easily above what Wall Street expected.

Google’s sale of advertisements on desktop computers—now a nearly 20-year-old business—continues to grow, and runs at about $40 billion annually, Nowak noted, as Google continues to refine its technology to make keyword searches more and more relevant to advertisers

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Microsoft:  Its cloud-computing business hit a $20 billion “run rate,” the amount it will generate annually in revenue if it keeps going at its current rate of growth. The Street sees in that the ability to add more products to its Azure cloud-computing service and to Office 365, its online productivity suite, to wring more dollars from the faithful.

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Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are all examples of what we call, in the internet age, network effects—the ability of a business to exploit its position in a kind of virtuous cycle. The payoff continues to astound Wall Street.

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Piotr Mieczkowski

Shaping the digital transformation & helping clients achieve their goals.

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