Wall Street continues to debate the path ahead for Amazon, e-commerce’s profit-challenged market share leader.
Even though Amazon had a record-breaking holiday shopping season, analysts at Monness Crespi Hardt downgraded the e-commerce giant’s stock to neutral from buy, helping to push its shares down 5.8 percent to $636.98 amid a global stock rut on Monday.
That’s a rough welcome to 2016 for Amazon, which said last week that its 21st holiday season was record-breaking across its Amazon Prime, Amazon Original Series and Amazon devices businesses. Upwards of three million members joined Prime at the end of last month, with over 200 million more items shipped using the membership service than in 2014.
The downgrade was pinned on a belief that “even winners need to take breathers,” but the financial community and e-commerce experts have something of a split opinion on the matter.
Robert Johnson, associate director of economic analysis at Morningstar, predicted that Amazon’s stock will “probably [go] down as people sell their big winners of 2015. Paradoxically, a lot of people sell their big winners when times get bad and cling to their losers. Maybe some worries about the China impact on the U.S. economy, too. I don’t believe a weak China necessarily hurts the U.S. economy.”
But Daniel Kurnos, a senior equity analyst at Benchmark Company, is wary about betting against Amazon — although he can see why some analysts are skeptical.
“The reality of the situation is not whether or not the company is slowing — because I don’t think it is,” Kurnos said.
He argued instead that lukewarm investor expectations of the holiday season overall might result in fewer hurdles for the company to overcome. And that could be a good thing.
Adheer Bahulkar, a partner in the retail practice at A.T. Kearney, said Amazon remains on a “strong track.”
“It’s an extremely well-run company that continues to churn out 20-plus percentage of top-line growth,” Bahulkar said. “Amazon has done a masterful job in not letting the Street dictate its growth and it’s evident. I almost see them as a $100 billion start-up because they continue to make investments in new segments.”
He said the site’s Prime membership service has been instrumental in Amazon being “leaps and bounds” ahead of competitors when it comes to servicing its consumer base. He estimated that 25 percent of all American households are Prime members.
Sam Cinquegrani, founder and chief executive officer of Objectwave, a digital marketing and technology services company, said Amazon is “doing everything right.”
Building a sustainable business means more than just selling goods online, said Cinquegrani, noting that for Amazon, this largely means putting customer service at the core of everything it does.
“Amazon continues to amaze everybody in the fact that they can continue to be able to offer free shipping in a very quick-delivery model. Then they continue to improve upon it,” Cinquegrani said. “If in fact Amazon continues to do the things they’ve done even in the last 12 months, I think they are just going to continue to excel and the trends in consumer preferences are moving towards online purchasing as opposed to brick-and-mortar.”
Cinquegrani said the company also has plenty of overseas growth ahead of it.
“Amazon in the last 12 months has further ventured into new Latin American countries, specifically Mexico,” he said. “Latin America is poised to grow 13-20 percent in the e-commerce space in the next three years and Amazon is in that market. Just the fact that they have now expanded their reach to an additional 130 million people is in itself something that analysts are not considering. If they can expand their reach by 25 percent, what does that say, particularly as these countries largely don’t have great e-commerce capabilities? Now all of a sudden, Amazon is there, so you’ll be seeing their international sales going up tremendously.”