Amazon hits 2Q estimates

Amazon.com met analysts' estimates in its second quarter Wednesday, posting a loss of $82.8m (£50.4m), or 51 cents a share, on sales of $314.4m. It also announced a 2-for-1 stock split.

First Call consensus expected the online retailer to lose 51 cents a share in the quarter. Including $55.2m in acquisition, merger and other charges, Amazon lost $138m, or 86 cents a share.

The $314.4m in sales represents a 171 percent jump versus the year-ago quarter when it lost $17m, or 12 cents a share, on sales of 116 million. In the third quarter, revenue will be "slightly higher" than second quarter levels. Its shares closed up 5 5/16 to 125 7/16 ahead of the earnings report.

On a warm fuzzy conference call that began with a recounting of amusing Amazon milestones in the last four years, CEO Jeff Bezos said the company's big investment in distribution would continue. Bezos reiterated his "err on the side of overcapacity" theme when it came to inventory. Officials also said Amazon might guess wrong on inventory and have writedowns. "We expect to make mistakes of various kinds," said Bezos. "We just don't want customers to pay for them."

Bezos also added that it's too early to tell how the company's new toy and electronic stores will ultimately do. But Bezos said things were off to a good start. "Looking at the first few days of sales in our new toys and electronics stores, we're shocked and grateful. In fact, we believe we're already the No. 1 seller of children's products online," said Bezos.

Company officials said its customer accounts, including Auctions bidders and sellers, increased by 2.3 million during the second quarter to 10.7 million, an increase of more than 220 percent from the 3.3 million customer accounts it had in the year-ago quarter. Repeat customer orders represented more than 70 percent of orders in the quarter.

Most analysts were predicting sales of $312m in the quarter. Henry Blodget, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, was a bit more conservative, predicting sales of $309m. Last quarter, Amazon.com lost $36.4m, or 23 cents a share, on sales of $293.6m.

When the first-quarter results were announced, CFO Joy Covey warned that its second-quarter sales growth would be slower than usual. The 2-for-1 stock will take effect on Sept. 1 for all shareholders of record on Aug. 12. This marks the stock's first split since its 3-for-1 bonanza in January. The stock surged to a high of 221 1/4 in April after falling to a low of 21 5/8 in September.

Eighteen of the 24 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation. First Call consensus expects Amazon.com to lose $1.72 a share in its fiscal year.

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