Amazon earns $384 million, or 85 cents per share in 4Q earnings

Amazon.com Inc. said Thursday its fourth-quarter earnings skyrocketed 71 percent, as shoppers spent more than ever during the holiday season — a time that was somewhat brighter this year than last for retailers on and off the Web. Shares in Amazon fell, however, in after-hours trading. Despite the sluggish economy, Amazon did well throughout the year, drawing shoppers with deals on an immense selection of goods ranging from its Kindle e-reader to kitchen gadgets. This behavior carried through the holiday season, which is typically the busiest time of the year for retailers. And Amazon doesn’t expect growth to slow: The company predicted first-quarter revenue will grow between 32 percent and 43 percent, ahead of analyst expectations.

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Amazon said it earned $384 million, or 85 cents per share, in the October-December period, compared with $225 million, or 52 cents per share, in the same period last year. Revenue rose 42 percent to $9.52 billion. This includes a $200 million contribution from online shoe and apparel store Zappos, which Amazon bought in late 2009. The results blasted past estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who expected earnings of 72 cents per share on $9.04 billion in revenue. Amazon forecast revenue of $6.45 billion to $7 billion in the current quarter; analyst are looking for $6.36 billion, on average. Amazon also said its board authorized it to buy back up to $2 billion in common stock under a plan that doesn’t have a set expiration date.

Shares in Amazin fell $10.08, or 8 percent, in after-hours trading. The stock finished regular trading earlier at $126.03, up $3.28, or 2.7 percent.

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