All Amazon does is execute

The Internet retailer is more than just the Wal-Mart of the Web. It's competing with -- and often beating -- some tech heavyweights in the lucrative area of online services.

By TheStreet Staff May 1, 2013 6:04PM

thestreet's logo on boxesBy Dana Blankenhorn, TheStreet


 I once owned some (AMZN). I bought it at $180/share and sold it at $230/share.


I sold because I thought it overpriced, but it hasn't seen that price since then. It's now at $250, and TheStreet's Robert Weinstein says the next time I see that $230 price, it'll be going down, down, down to stay.


Maybe. Any growth story is harder to sustain as numbers get bigger. As they get bigger they get serious and leave their marks everywhere. On the land, on government, on the public mind.


Amazon is no longer a scrappy upstart. It's the Wal-Mart (WMT) of the Web. It's also the Wal-Mart of the cloud. It dominates even Google (GOOG) in the sale of public cloud services.


Quartz recently unpacked Amazon's cloud revenue from the rest of its earnings, using the company's own figures, and came out with a $600 million quarter. That could grow to $3.8 billion for all of 2013 -- meaning revenue from such services are growing at more than 50% per year.


What's that worth? Business Insider figures it at $19 billion. Consider that Rackspace Hosting (RAX), the leader in serving the open-source OpenStack cloud infrastructure, is worth $6.6 billion, with half of Amazon's revenue. 

Since the Amazon Web Service -- which drives the service -- remains proprietary, Amazon has a bigger moat around its AWS revenue. 

A bigger moat

How about those retail sales? Take the $19 billion off the current market cap of $113 billion and you're paying $94 billion for $15.4 billion in first-quarter sales. (Take out those cloud revenues, remember.) That's still a gain of 20% from last year's first quarter. Maintain that momentum for a full year and you're looking at almost $75 billion in sales for 2013.


Now, that still means you're paying $1.25 for each $1 of forward sales, which is almost double the 55 cents per $1 of 2012 sales you're paying for Wal-Mart, or the 47 cents for each $1 you pay for Costco Wholesale (COST) revenue.


But what else are you getting?


A bigger moat, for one thing. As Amazon adds to its sales, it adds to its delivery infrastructure. It adds more warehouses, getting closer to customers. It adds automation to those warehouses, it adds data to its own data stores and it adds delivery infrastructure. Not just here, but everywhere. It should have 102 fully automated warehouses worldwide by this Christmas, according to Internet Retailer.


And those aren't Wal-Mart shoppers, my friend. They are Costco shoppers. They are the high end of the market, not the Family Dollar (FDO) end.

What's on the shelves 

I tried out Wal-Mart online shopping at Christmas. They're at least three years behind Amazon in terms of basic infrastructure, like knowing what's on the shelves and getting me access to it. And the distance is increasing, not decreasing.


It's true, as Weinstein suggests, that the cloud moat may not be as sturdy as this infrastructure moat. Computer prices keep declining, and even commodity PCs get better each year. What you bought last year for $1 may cost you 50 cents this coming Christmas. But size matters here, too -- the number of potential competitors declines as size increases.


According to Distimo, a Dutch research company, Amazon is actually outselling Google Play in apps. More people download free stuff at Google, but more pay for what they download when they get it from Amazon. Its apps are still in only a half-dozen countries -- there's the rest of the world yet to come.


So, yes, Amazon has to compete with Google in apps and it has to compete with Wal-Mart in shopping and it even has to compete with Apple (AAPL) in devices. The cloud pack is nipping at its heels.


But having just a vision is no solution. Everything depends on execution, and Amazon keeps executing.


You'll pay for that, at $250 a share. But I think I was wrong to sell Amazon before. I think it has a lot more growth in it.


The author owns shares of Google, Apple and Costco Wholesale.


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May 1, 2013 9:22PM
Of course they compare it to Wal-Mart. I worked for Amazon and I feel it was  worse than working for Wal-Mart. They once forced the entire night crew to stand outside in tee shirts and shorts for several hours in 12 degree temps. not allowing them to get their coats while they investigated a false alarm. I understand the need for caution but everyone's coats where in clear view of the break room where there was obviously no problem. They could have had a supervisor escort smaller groups in and out of a side door and show some humanity.  That's just one story, the place is a sweat shop.   
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