The Day Ahead: Let's hope Amazon's PR staff is paid well

Jeff Bezos interview: ZDNet reads between the lines
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Commentary: It was supposed to be an easy day Monday. With a lot of folks off for either Columbus Day or Yom Kippur, trading volume was light. Even CNBC's Maria Bartiromo ditched the New York Stock Exchange for New York City's Columbus Day parade.

Monday was a perfect breather before the third quarter earnings onslaught -- unless you were part of the Amazon.com investor relations crew. Light trading days can mean heavy moves as investors overreact to no news, old news and all sorts of pseudo news.

Amazon shares fell 11 percent before recovering later in the trading session, but still closed down. The reason for the fall? Chief executive Jeff Bezos spouted off in an interview with Reuters. He didn't say anything new, but those light trading days are always good for some overreaction.

Those poor investor relations people. What do you do when you have a chief executive that laughs off profits, keeps Wall Street in the dark and reiterates everything investors don't want to hear?

Let's read between the lines on a few Bezos excerpts ...

STOCKHOLM, Oct 9 (Reuters) - The chief executive of the world's biggest Internet retailer Amazon.com rejected on Monday criticism of the group's expansion strategy amid a sagging share price, saying it would diversify further.

Way to go Jeff. Amazon shares are in the dumps because of your diversification plans, and what do you do? Throw more fuel on the fire. Do they sell muzzles on Amazon?

Jeff Bezos also told Reuters in an interview that he expected the upcoming and important Christmas season to be a strong one for Amazon and companies like his.

Christmas better be strong. Amazon is a one quarter story these days and shares are near a 52-week low despite holiday hype.

The Reuters story goes on to detail Amazon's expansion plans and recent deal with online photo service Ofoto to launch a full-service camera and photography store. It didn't take Bezos long to strike again. "We will continue to do deals like the photo deal and we'll also continue to enter new product categories," Bezos said.

C'mon Jeff. You could have at least noted that Amazon would enter new product categories that will be profitable. Robertson Stephens analyst Lauren Cooks Levitan, one of your biggest fans, is already shooting holes in your "offer everything" theory to e-commerce. She noted Amazon may never post a profit by being all things to all people.

"That belief is incorrect," said Bezos when asked if the Seattle-based company's business model was flawed and it was diversifying too much into new product areas. "The model works... selection is an advantage not a disadvantage."

Sure Jeff, that home store with Living.com worked out just great. The model works for who?

"Oh, I know we will be [profitable]," Bezos said with one of his regular outbursts of laughter in a very early morning interview, but declined to reveal the company's internal and secret goal of when it will reach profitability.

Media training 101: at least sound sincere when talking about profitability and your investors' money. Dot-com profitability isn't a laughing matter unless you're stuck in Bezos' bizarro world. And while you're at it, give Wall Street a path to profitability.

Bezos said Amazon would continue diversifying in terms of product categories both through partnerships, such as the Toys R Us deal, and on its own. "Our goal long-term is to build a place where people can go to find and discover anything they might want to buy online and that's a multi-decade goal," he said.

Multi-decade? Will you have enough cash to last that long?

The company would not achieve this alone. "It's too ambitious a goal to achieve alone. We are going to do it in a combination of what will ultimately be thousands and thousands of partners," he said.

Wall Street can live with the land of a 1,000 e-commerce partners scheme as long as you stick with a simple rule -- don't invest in your partners. Amazon may be the only one still holding shares of Pets.com.

Bezos also said Amazon would continue focusing more on Europe and launch local language Web sites following the recent launch of its French site. "Long-term we would like to have a local presence in every country but that's going to take a long time," he said, adding it would take several decades.

Does he ever learn? A bunch of local Amazons could mean decades of local losses. The currency changes, but the losses remain the same.

Bezos said he was convinced Europe was the best market. "The rate of growth for Amazon in Europe is dramatic, much more dramatic than it has been historically in the US... people here believe e-commerce is not taking off but that's not the math that I see," he said.

LOL. We've seen many Amazon quarters go by and we're still not sure what maths Bezos sees.

See ZDII for US tech investor news.

See techTrader for more technology investment news, plus quotes and research.

To have your say online click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.

Editorial standards