A huge 2017 holiday period has sent the world's largest online retailer by revenue and market capitalisation (Alibaba boasts more sales by volume) flying. AMZN shares soared 4%
on a day when its fellow technology giants also posted some very impressive results. Bolstering the company's net income were invaluable contributions from its powerhouse cloud computing division Amazon Web Services and strong sales of its voice-enabled Alexa and Echo home assistants. The results capped a great week in which the company also leapfrogged Apple and Google to become the world's most valuable brand
So what's next for Amazon? Well earlier this week it announced a new joint partnership with Berkshire Hathaway Inc and JP Morgan Chase & Co to enter the healthcare space
. The collaboration intends to reduce the healthcare costs for the three companies' combined 1 million employees, but absolutely no one expects them to stop at that. Little wonder then that healthcare stocks including Aetna, CVS and Anthem slumped on the news.
Given Amazon's heft and disruptive potential it's unsurprising that the giant is now dogged by daily controversies, both large and small. As you probably are aware, Amazon's search for a location for its second headquarters has sparked a frenzied bidding war across the States. Yesterday a group of America's top economists signed an open letter
lambasting the tax breaks and incentives that competing cities and states are offering (New Jersey offered a jaw-dropping US$7b in incentives). The economists described Amazon's behaviour as both 'anti-competitive' and 'rent-seeking'.
Meanwhile in the drizzly climes of downtown Seattle Amazon has refurbished its current headquarters. Among the new developments is a striking set of interlocking biospheres
(pictured above) that houses rainforests, as an aid to creative thinking and mental wellbeing. While this commitment to employee wellbeing may be laudable, the company also stands accused of not paying workers in some jurisdictions a living wage, thereby forcing them onto welfare. It is also then able to claim further benefits from state governments for employing people who are on welfare programs.
Amazon may have had a record quarter, but it certainly wasn't the only one. Apple, the world's largest company by market capitalisation, reclaimed its crown
from Samsung for the most smartphone devices sold last quarter. Despite a drop in sales volume compared to Q4 2016, Apple raked in a record quarterly profit of more than US$20b, largely due to the higher price of the iPhone X. It will be fascinating to see how these figures play into Apple's proposed plan to spend
its entire cash reserve of US$163b.
Likewise Alphabet, the parent company of Google, reported more than a modicum of success
. A 20% jump in revenue left the company with a very comfortable US$7.7b to spend, which might sound like a great result but it wasn't enough to please Alphabet's shareholders. A one-off tax hit of US$10b
cut into confidence over Google's results as did its dependence on soaring advertising revenue (which now accounts for 84% of Alphabet's total revenue).
Like Google, Facebook too reported a gratifying (for them) and scary (for everyone else) 20% jump in its ad business
in its Q4 report. Earlier in the week CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined a new vision for his social media giant, one that will reduce the amount of time users spend on the platform by up to 5%. The market was obviously unimpressed at the change and Facebook shares fell 4% on the news.