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Amazon's Q4 Profits Set a Record, and So Did Its Share Price

By Motley Fool Staff - Updated Feb 12, 2018 at 5:37PM

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The $1.9 billion it earned was impressive, as was the way it got there.

In this segment of the Motley Fool Money podcast, host Chris Hill, Million Dollar Portfolio's Jason Moser and Matt Argersinger, and Hidden Gems Canada's David Kretzmann parse the state of e-commerce leader Amazon.com (AMZN 3.15%). It turned in a huge fourth quarter, but what investors are interested in is the future: How much bigger is its opportunity, and how high could the stock go?

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Feb. 2 2018.

Chris Hill: Let's start with Amazon. Fourth quarter profits for Amazon came in at a record $1.9 billion. Good enough to send the stock up 5% on Friday, Jason, hitting another, but probably not the last, all-time high.

Jason Moser: Not too shabby. I'd venture to guess that every single person in the studio put Amazon to work this holiday season. I think, perhaps, the disconnect today between Amazon bears and the stock price, I think it centers around the opportunity that still exists. If we look at this in context of competition out there, Amazon just chalked up sales of close to $180 billion for the year. That sounds great. We're all very happy about that. But when you look at Wal-Mart, which is its fellow competitor in the space, and making good moves, I might add, as well, Wal-Mart's trailing 12-month revenue is $495 billion. So, significantly higher than that of Amazon, which I think just tells us how much opportunity is still out there for Amazon to capture. Let's remember, too, I don't think there's a Wal-Mart Web Services side of the business. When we think about AWS and how much success they've had in such a short period of time, I think that's what really has investors so excited about the future of this company today.

David Kretzmann: Yeah. What's really exciting is, they dramatically accelerated their growth this quarter compared to the same quarter in 2016. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Amazon grew sales 22%. This quarter, 42%, has JaMo mentioned. I'd say, if there's one potential yellow flag or thing we want to watch going forward, it's that free cash flow production dropped a good amount this year. Obviously, with Amazon, as patient long-term investors, we're happy with them foregoing earnings to reinvest back in the business. But along the way, free cash flow has generally steadily increased. But in 2017, free cash flow was $6.5 billion. That's down from almost $10 billion in 2016. So, something to watch there.

Matt Argersinger: I think Amazon sealed the deal today. I think this is going to be the first publicly traded $1 trillion company.

Hill: Really?

Argersinger: Yeah, I think it is. I know we're going to talk about other companies today that are in the mix. But I think they did it today. They've set the stage. The way their growth is accelerating, as Jason and David were talking about, the momentum is there.

Hill: See, I think they're not the first to $1 trillion. I think they're the first to $2 trillion.

Argersinger: That might be the safer bet.

Moser: That'll probably the safer bet, because Apple is so close already. But listen, this quarter, North American retail operating margin was 4.5%. That's great. They have not touched that level in some time, if ever, really. And it really shines a light on how efficiently the business runs, how good of an operator this team is. And I think we're going to see that play out in the international segment here over the coming decade as well. They're chalking up losses right now, but this is a very long-term focused management team. And Amazon Web Services, operating margin up 30 basis points from a year ago, this is really one that -- the retail segments, they can't ever attain these margins, but that's going to be a big contributor to the business as well.

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