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Better Buy: Amazon vs. Peloton

By Leo Sun - Apr 8, 2021 at 12:00PM

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Which high-growth company will generate more reliable returns after the pandemic ends?

Amazon (AMZN -1.18%) and Peloton (PTON -4.48%) have both generated impressive growth throughout the pandemic.

Amazon's e-commerce sales surged as people ordered more products online, and increased online activity drove the continued growth of its cloud infrastructure business. Peloton's sales of connected exercise bikes, along with their tethered subscriptions, soared as gyms closed down.

Amazon's stock has risen more than 60% over the past 12 months, but Peloton's stock has surged more than 300%. But can Peloton continue to generate bigger gains than Amazon as the pandemic passes and higher bond yields spark a retreat from pricier growth stocks?

An Amazon Go store.

Image source: Amazon.

Amazon should have a softer post-pandemic landing

Amazon's revenue rose 38% to $386.1 billion in fiscal 2020. It generated 61% of its revenue from North America, 27% from its international marketplaces, and the remaining 12% from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the world's largest cloud infrastructure platform.

Amazon's North American revenue rose 38%, its international revenue grew 40%, and its AWS revenue increased 30%. However, it actually generated 59% of its operating profits from AWS, which generates much higher-margin revenue than its retail businesses.

The growth of AWS, along with the robust growth of Amazon's marketplaces throughout the pandemic, offset its higher COVID-19 safety expenses and boosted its net income 84% to $21.3 billion for the full year.

Analysts expect Amazon's revenue and earnings to increase 23% and 14%, respectively, this year as it faces tougher year-over-year comparisons. It could also face some transitional challenges as Andy Jassy replaces Jeff Bezos as its new CEO later this year, and it still faces regulatory and labor challenges.

However, Amazon's core businesses are still undeniably strong. AWS remains the top cloud platform by a wide margin, and its e-commerce ecosystem now serves over 150 million Prime subscribers worldwide.

AWS' higher-margin revenue should continue to support the growth of Amazon's lower-margin marketplaces with new hardware devices, streaming services, and perks for Prime members.

Peloton has a lot to prove in a post-pandemic world

Peloton's revenue doubled to $1.83 billion in fiscal 2020, which ended last June, and soared 163% year-over-year to $1.82 billion in the first half of 2021 as the pandemic dragged on.

Peloton wasn't profitable last year, but it generated a profit of $133 million in the first half of 2021. It also generated a positive adjusted EBITDA of $236 million, compared to a loss of $49 million a year ago.

A woman rides a Peloton bike at home.

Image source: Peloton.

Peloton ended the first half of the year with 1.67 million subscribers, up 134% year-over-year, and it expects its subscriptions to rise 109% for the full year. It expects its full-year revenue to rise at least 123% and for its adjusted EBITDA to grow more than 155%.

Analysts expect Peloton's revenue and adjusted earnings to grow 125% and 197%, respectively, this year. Next year, they expect its revenue and earnings to rise 36% and 129%, respectively.

Those growth rates are impressive, but it's unclear if people will continue to buy Peloton's pricey bikes and subscriptions after gyms reopen and more competitors enter the remote workout market.

Peloton believes its first-mover's advantage, sticky subscriptions, and new products (like its upcoming treadmill) will help it maintain its momentum -- but it could be sailing into uncharted territory after the pandemic ends.

The valuations and verdict

Peloton trades at about 160 times forward earnings and six times next year's sales. Those valuations are reasonable relative to its growth rates, but they're pegged to fairly high expectations.

Amazon trades at nearly 50 times forward earnings and three times this year's sales. Those valuations are also reasonable, and Amazon could be better-insulated from the sell-off in pandemic-related stocks as investors focus on its ability to continue expanding after the pandemic ends.

Peloton could still head higher this year, but it's too speculative for me. I'd much rather own Amazon, which will likely keep growing for decades, than this younger company, which still needs to be tested.

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Stocks Mentioned

Amazon.com, Inc. Stock Quote
Amazon.com, Inc.
AMZN
$2,121.00 (-1.18%) $-25.38
Peloton Interactive, Inc. Stock Quote
Peloton Interactive, Inc.
PTON
$14.07 (-4.48%) $0.66

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