Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN) monster growth has made many on Wall Street believe it's positioned to be one of the first companies to reach a $1 trillion market cap. The tech giant's stock has been on a tear so far this year, having risen more than 34% year to date, putting its market cap at $482 billion and rising. Apple Inc. (AAPL) ($782 billion market cap), Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) ($666 billion) and Facebook Inc. (FB) ($461 billion) are Amazon's chief rivals in the race to a trillion-dollar valuation.
But there may be one thing that could prevent Amazon from reaching that milestone, according to Monness, Crespi, Hardt analyst James Cakmak. If the FTC decides to oppose Amazon's proposed $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods Market (WFM) , it would represent a major roadblock in its ability to keep growing as quickly. In a note to clients on Monday, Cakmak laid out several arguments that might give regulators pause in granting approval of the deal.
Representatives from Amazon declined to comment on the merger.
"We don't know how the FTC will rule, but we believe we are at a crossroads where this decision will not only have massive implications in relation to Amazon's valuation, but even more importantly in expanding Amazon's position as the primary beneficiary in the context of the broader economy," Cakmak wrote. "If it goes through, we look for Amazon to become the world's first trillion-dollar company with little standing in its way."
The FTC will probably consider how Amazon's massive (and growing) total addressable market has led and will lead to further job losses, Cakmak argued. Amazon has disrupted countless markets, including the retail and delivery sectors, which when combined, represent about eight million jobs, or about 5% of the participating workforce in the U.S., he said. In Cakmak's view, the Whole Foods deal could be leveraged to take on the $800 billion restaurant and prepared foods markets, leading to further job displacement.
That being said, the FTC wouldn't have any legal basis for blocking the merger on employment grounds. U.S. regulators weigh antitrust cases based on how they affect consumer prices, not whether people lose jobs or wages.
On top of that, as America begins to roll out 5G networks in the next few years, it may become easier for Amazon to develop new, disruptive technologies. 5G networks are "game changing," in that they can process data at rates that are up to ten times faster than 4G networks. For Amazon, it will rapidly accelerate the deployment of new machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, which could potentially eliminate jobs in more markets, Cakmak said.
"Whoever is prepared and can harness the power will win," Cakmak explained.
Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk made a similar point at the National Governors Association meeting on Saturday, arguing that the government needs to begin regulating AI now before "it's too late." Musk has said previously that AI presents one of the biggest existential threats to the human race and calls for regulation on either a national or international basis.
Outside of job losses, regulators may be wary about just how large Amazon could get as a result of a possible Whole Foods acquisition. Through this deal, Amazon could gain more value to itself "than any company in history" across consumer packed goods, media, food and IT services, Cakmak said. He pointed to the increasing popularity of Amazon Basics as one area that could prove to put a brand like Energizer out of business over time. "That's one example, but we see brands seeing a death by a thousand cuts," Cakmak noted.
Amazon's growing original content library, as well as its willingness to pay big bucks for sports streaming, serve as a major threat to the $650 billion media industry, Cakmak said. Amazon also poses a threat to the IT Services market, due to its dominance in the cloud, he added. Together, all these factors could make Amazon a big enough behemoth that regulators reconsider giving the green light to the Whole Foods deal.
"Adding all this up with retail exposes nearly half the nation's economy for the taking," Cakmak explained. "Now is the time to evaluate the tradeoffs."
Amazon's shares rose 1.2% to $1,022.11 early Tuesday afternoon, after closing Monday higher as well. The company is up about 30% year-to-date.
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