Fine Art Moves to the Amazon

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It never ceases to amaze me what happens when successful entrepreneurs think big. Some big ideas float while others sink.

If this article's title had you thinking about what may happen next on South America's most important inland waterway, I've got good news for you.

There won't be any fine art vendors setting up concession on the banks of the Amazon River. This story is about the world's most successful online vendor getting ready for a new Internet concession focused on a very unique and profitable niche.

Amazon.com ( AMZN), which will report its latest quarterly earnings Thursday after the markets close, will soon be offering rare paintings, prints and other one-of-a kind fine art to discerning clients.

Yes, you read it correctly: AMZN will soon be revealing a new site with works of art from around 100 galleries around the U.S. This summer has seen the Colossus of e-Commerce hosting fancy receptions in major cities like New York, San Francisco and its home town of Seattle to make a splash about it.

AMZN has been focusing lately on the higher-end markets where profit margins will be better. Investors familiar with the company know that this may be a switch from the old paradigm.

While e-commerce companies such as eBay ( EBAY) have operating margins of more than 20%, AMZN seems content with hardly any operating margin at all.

The corporate philosophy to which CEO Jeff Bezos and company religiously ascribe is to take revenue and pour it into growth and new ventures. That's how AMZN became the fulfillment center for every imaginable product from food to fluorescent light bulbs.

It won't be easy to sell fine art on the worldwide Web. It seems intuitive that big-money collectors will want to see the painting before they buy. Perhaps what will sell the art is who the artist is and the gallery with which they're connected.

Apparently AMZN is enticing gallery owners with free membership. The king of online retailing will charge a tiered commission based on the price of the artwork offered.

My sources tell me that AMZN's sales commission will be between 5% and 20%. I'm anticipating that the higher the price, the lower the commission as that's one of the most popular commission standards in the world of collectibles.

Does this contribute to justifying AMZN's sky-high share price? At Friday's closing price of $305.23, shares are slightly more than $4 from the 52-week high. With a forward (one-year) PE ratio of 96, that's better than its current nonexistent PE since AMZN doesn't have any after Ebitda earnings (EPS) yet.

Let the five-year price chart below speak for itself. I've included the trailing 12-month (TTM) revenue per share which shows remarkable results. This is about as pretty a chart as can be found.

AMZN Chart AMZN data by YCharts

Now the question is, can AMZN keep on mastering the "art" of driving revenue up to the sky in order to support the current share price? It's interesting that the median estimated price target for AMZN among 36 analysts is about $325 per share.

That same crew of analysts expect the quarter ending June 30 to show sales growth and an increase in revenue of nearly 23%. EPS could actually be an earth-shaking 6 cents per share. Gulp!

It's ironic the high price of AMZN shares says that the Street expects big things to come in the coming quarters. Maybe that's why Amazon has to sell big-ticket items like fine art.

Let's see, a 10% commission on $100 million worth of rare art would bring in $10 million. Maybe that's the tip of the iceberg or, as Picasso might have said, "The future value of my paintings is inestimable!"

That could also be said for Amazon.com's share price. I, for one, won't bet again Jeff Bezos and company.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Marc Courtenay is the founder and owner of Advanced Investor Technologies, LLC, as well as the publisher and editor of www.ChecktheMarkets.com.

Courtenay holds a Master's of Science degree in Psychology from California Polytechnic State University, and is a former senior vice-president of Investments for two major brokerage firms. He's been a fiercely independent investment "investigator" and a consulting contributor to the investment publishing world for over 30 years. In addition to his role as an investment publisher and analyst, he serves as a marketing consultant to the investment media industries.

In his role as a financial editor, he specializes in unique investment strategies, overlooked stock investments, energy and resource companies, precious metals, emerging growth companies, the prudent use of option strategies,real estate related opportunities,wealth preservation, money-saving offers, risk management, tax issues, as well as "the psychology of investing". Because of his training and background in Clinical Counseling and Psychology, he enjoys writing about investor behavior, the ¿herd mentality, how to turn investment mistakes into investment breakthroughs and the stock market's behavioral trends and patterns.


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