Amazon sales forecast for holiday quarter misses estimates

Amazon’s sales projections for the crucial quarter that includes the US holiday season have disappointed Wall Street, and third-quarter results have missed forecasts, sending the online retailer’s share price 9% lower on Thursday.

After an unusually busy first half of the year that saw Amazon spend on developing everything from mobile phones to grocery deliveries, investors were ready to see it curtail its ambitions and start delivering sustainable profits.

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But not only did it post a larger loss than expected, Amazon also projected 7% to 18% revenue growth over the busiest shopping period of the year, a far cry from the 20%-plus pace that had convinced investors to overlook its persistent lack of profit in the past.

“That kind of takes the top line growth story off the table. And now they’ve got to deliver on profit margins,” said Rob Plaza, senior analyst at Key private bank. “Because of all that money they need to spend to drive growth, it becomes an expensive proposition.“

The share losses wiped more than $15bn (£9bn) off Amazon’s market value. The stock had already been down 13% since Amazon’s last quarterly results announcement in July, when it also missed targets and ignited a debate about its free-spending ways.

Some analysts fear the US holiday shopping season, the biggest quarter for most retailers, might be weaker than anticipated.

Amazon projected on Thursday net sales of between $27.3bn and $30.3bn for the holiday quarter, lagging the $30.9bn analysts had expected on average.

Chief financial officer Tom Szkutak said a stronger dollar had reduced its fourth-quarter revenue forecast by about 2.5 percentage points. A stronger dollar means overseas revenue translates to less in the home currency.

For the just-finished third quarter, Amazon missed on virtually every metric that Wall Street tracks.

Its third-quarter net loss widened to $437m or 95 cents per share in the third quarter, from $41m at 9 cents a year ago. That came in larger than forecasts for a loss of 74 cents a share.

Revenue also fell short of expectations. Net sales rose to $20.58bn, but that lagged forecasts for $20.84bn, according to Thomson Reuters.

Shares in the company slid more than 9% to $284 in extended trade.

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