Bezos: Amazon's independence is key

PARIS, Aug 29 (Reuters) - E-commerce pioneer Amazon.com wants to preserve its independence despite its recent stock market misfortunes, founder Jeff Bezos said on Tuesday.
Written by ZDNet Staff, Contributor

PARIS, Aug 29 (Reuters) - E-commerce pioneer Amazon.com wants to preserve its independence despite its recent stock market misfortunes, founder Jeff Bezos said on Tuesday.

Bezos, chairman and CEO of the online book and music retailer, rejected alarmist analyses on the financial health of the group in an interview with Reuters and Reuters Television.

``We have more than $900 million in cash, almost a billion dollars cash,'' he said at the launch of its French site, Amazon.fr. ``So we are very comfortable with our cash position and any reports to the contrary are misguided.''

Bezos declined to comment on how much Amazon had invested in the French site that will be launched on August 31 with 100 employees, saying only that it was ``significant.''

``As we enter these different businesses, each business follows its own life cycle. Our most mature business is our U.S. books, music and video (operation) and it is already profitable -- it had a $10 million operating profit in the most recent quarter,'' he said.


``Over time you'll see our other businesses become profitable. We have internal targets for each,'' he said.

In that context, the drop in Amazon's stock price -- it closed on Monday at $39-1/8, down 48.6 percent from $76-1/8 at the start of the year -- does not unduly worry him.

He noted that the stock price, hit by the overall slide in Internet shares and worries over lack of profits, had still been multiplied by 20 in three years. ``Very few companies can make that statement. It is very important not to be short term.''

Bezos, who created Amazon with $300,000 borrowed from his family, said he did not consider his group a target for a much bigger group like retailers Wal-Mart or Carrefour.

``We are not interested in such arrangements. We really think we can build an independent company and we have a mission, we're on a mission,'' he said.

``We are trying to do something that we call Earth's most customer-centric company. We want to build a place where people can find anything they want to discover online... and we have a vision -- an internal vision of what we want to accomplish, and we don't want to be taken off that vision.''

But he denied wanting Amazon to become the Wal-Mart of the Internet.

``We want to be the Amazon.com of the Internet age. Our vision is to offer a universal selection,'' he said, adding that only online could a company offer that.

He said e-commerce was just getting to its feet and that those who expect to see only a few winners have not understood the extent of the revolution under way.

And he said that price was only one among several factors that have brought Amazon success.

``The main thing has always been service, selection, ease of use,'' he said.

Even if it is arriving in France with a large amount of capital, the U.S. site says it is respectful of local cultures.

``In every market there are unique cultural attributes. That is why in every market we enter we build local teams, the best people we can find who care deeply about the culture of that country,'' Bezos said.

Amazon is already operating in Germany and Britain. Along with France, these markets represent 60 percent of e-commerce in Europe.

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