Updated from 10:05 a.m. to include new information about Amazon and Twitter in the ninth paragraph.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) –– As investors continue to worry about Amazon's (AAPL) long-term spending plans, the company may be able to do two things to reassure shareholders, according to some on Wall Street.
Barclays analyst Paul Vogel, who rates Amazon "equal weight" with a $330 price target, believes that Amazon needs to reinvigorate revenue growth, which has slowed to 20% year-over-year growth from 40% growth year over year just three years ago. Or, the company can improve operating margins, which have been hovering around 2% for some time, to prove that the company's relentless spending to move into new areas has been worth it.
In the second quarter, Amazon's revenue was $19.34 billion, up 23% year over year. However, the company lost 27 cents a share, compared to an estimate of 15 cents, as research and development costs and operating expenses roses.
"Our key takeaway, we see modest margin improvement likely over the next few years (somewhere around 50 bps per year) and believe margins will be held back equally in the short to intermediate term by both structural . . . and discretionary (AWS) expenses," Vogel wrote in the note.
In structural expenses, the company has been working on building out its main units, first-party and third-party, by expanding into new areas. Vogel believes that first-party, which is Amazon selling goods directly to customers, can be a profitable business, but it will be a "structural low single-digit margin business."
The third-party business, which is small businesses and larger retailers listing their goods on Amazon, with Amazon taking a cut of the sale, is profitable and Amazon's biggest growth engine, but the company's Fulfillment by Amazon service is likely hurting margins in this area, something which Vogel notes hurts overall operating margins.
The company has been trying hard to expand both the first-party and third-party businesses, by moving into new software and hardware, thus ramping up expenses. Amazon has been expanding its hardware lineup recently, refreshing its tablet lineup to compete with Apple's (AAPL) iPad and other Google (GOOG) Android-based tablets in the market. Amazon's entry into the smartphone market, with its Fire phone, has been an early disappointment for the company, with many reviewers (including this one from TheStreet) recommending consumers not purchase the phone. Amazon recently dropped the starting price of the phone to 99 cents with a two year contract, down from $199.
Amazon also recently announced that it would be expanding its relationship with Twitter (TWTR) , allowing customers to tweet an item with the hashtag #AmazonWishList, which would allow them to add items their Amazon Wish List without leaving Twitter. Customers can also tweet using the hashtag #AmazonCart, and items will be added to their Amazon cart.
Investors appear to be getting tired of Amazon's ever-spending ways, with shares off 9.6% since July 24, compared to a 0.78% gain in the Nasdaq and 0.21% loss in the S&P 500.
Assuming Amazon can reinvigorate revenue growth or boost operating margins, investors may return to the Jeff Bezos-led company. If the Seattle-based company can't do either, it may be more of the same for Amazon and its shareholders in the not too distant future.
--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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