(March 23): For years, Amazon.com Inc’s aggressive growth strategy has enabled the stock to command a hefty premium to big tech peers. But with its expansion slowing, many investors are now balking at paying up for the e-commerce giant.
While Amazon’s valuation has dropped significantly along with the rest of the Big Tech group, it’s still by far the most expensive at 34 times profits expected over the next 12 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That at a time when its growth is slowing sharply: analysts estimate revenue will expand just 8% this year, compared with an average of 24% over the past five years.
“When we compare Amazon to other large technology companies there is better value and a better risk-reward proposition at those other companies,” said Jason Benowitz, associate partner and senior portfolio manager at CI Roosevelt.
While Benowitz admires the company’s track record of long-term investments, he has questioned some of Amazon’s moves in recent years. Among those he’s skeptical of: the more than US$10 billion the Seattle-based firm is plowing into a satellite project aimed at providing internet coverage to millions of potential customers and the US$3.5 billion acquisition of healthcare provider One Medical Group.
Timothy Ghriskey, senior portfolio strategist at Ingalls & Snyder, said his firm owns Amazon shares, but has been selling down the position for more than a year. One of the big problems, as he sees it, is a slowdown for Amazon Web Services, which has been Amazon’s sales and profit engine.
“When not everything is firing on all cylinders, Amazon tends to get hit a lot more than its big-tech peers,” he said.
Such concerns are reflected in a faltering stock performance. Despite a rebound this year, Amazon shares are still down 47% from a 2021 closing peak. Compare that with Apple Inc’s 13% drop from its record, as well as Microsoft Corp’s 21% decline and Alphabet Inc’s 31% retreat from their all-time highs.
Of course, Amazon still has plenty of fans. Wall Street analysts have been nearly universally bullish on the stock for years. It has the highest percentage of buy ratings among megacaps at 93% and the average of price targets implies a gain of 36% from current levels.
One of those bulls, JPMorgan’s Doug Anmuth, believes investor sentiment on the stock is near multi-year lows. Still, the analyst is encouraged by cost-cutting efforts that he expects to result in a surge in free cash flow this year.
This week, Amazon announced an additional 9,000 layoffs, adding to cuts that were already the largest round in the company’s history. The reductions are primarily in AWS, human resources, advertising and Twitch livestreaming service groups.
Ingalls & Snyder’s Ghriskey said he expects AWS’s sales growth to re-accelerate, but that the diversity of Amazon’s businesses — which also include grocery store Whole Foods and television and music-streaming services — make it difficult for investors to assess a fair valuation.
“The company doesn’t fit into any single bucket, which means the stories are much cleaner at Apple or Microsoft or Alphabet, or even Meta,” he said.