Recently Brian Olsavsky, Chief Financial Officer at Amazon, stated that effective May 11, new Amazon Prime subscribers would pay $119 for an annual membership as opposed to $99 for current members.
This follows the release of Amazon’s first quarter earnings report which, according to financial reporter Shannon Liao, were “eye-popping,” with $51 billion in sales (North America), “up by nearly 43 percent year over year, and a net profit of $1.6 billion.”
Continued Liao, “That means it’s another strong quarter for CEO Jeff Bezos, whose e-commerce juggernaut continues to defy expectations and earn money hand over fist as it expands into markets like food delivery, grocery chains, and smart home gadgets.”
This is great news for Amazon, because for decades it has been operating at a loss, but buoyed by a rising stock price. The current price of a share of Amazon stock is $1,561.
Moreover, it has a price per earnings (P/E) ratio of 134. According to Y Charts, the P/E ratio is the measure of the share price relative to the annual net income earned by the firm per share. P/E ratio shows current investor demand for a company share. A high P/E ratio generally indicates increased demand because investors anticipate earnings growth in the future. And Amazon is a very much in demand stock.
In short, what this means to the investor is for every dollar you invest in Amazon, it will take you 134 years to make it back. What are investors in Amazon seeing that a prudent guy like me may not? Compare this to Ford Motor Company which has a stock price of $11 and a P/E ratio of 6.51.
So, should we minions who are hooked on Amazon for our source of consumer goods, movies and music be jumping for joy? I mean, things keep looking better all the time for Amazon …
I would argue that we consumers should be very, very concerned. Investors in Amazon see a time when the business lines of Amazon combined will be (and currently are) far more valuable than the business lines looked at separately. Amazon, like any monopoly today, is prepared to operate with losses knowing that once they can exercise enough control over any given market, they will launch into an orgy of profit taking that will reward Jeff Bezos and the stakeholders.
We are getting a taste of this with a 20 percent increase in the price of a Prime subscription. Whole Foods, a recent acquisition in the grocery industry, can now operate at a loss in a marketplace where pennies on the dollar determine who stays in business and who goes under. In many respects, Amazon is Walmart on steroids.
Jeremy Owens of Market Watchreported that in 2017 the average worker at Amazon earned less than $30,000 (this includes all bonuses and other forms of compensation). Contrast that to the average UPS worker who brings home $53,000.
Alan Selby, a reporter for the Mirrorspent five weeks working in an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom and had the following to say about it:
“Alone in a locked metal cage, 10 feet from my nearest colleague, a robot approaches from the shadows and thrusts a tower of shelves towards me. I have nine seconds to grab and process an item to be sent for packing – a target of 300 items an hour, for hour after relentless hour. As I bend to the floor then reach high above my head to fulfill a never-ending stream of orders, my body screams at me. Welcome to Amazon’s picking floor. Here, while cameras watch my every move, a screen in front of me offers constant reminders of my ‘units per hour’ and exactly how long each has taken.”
Will things get better for consumers and workers as Amazon becomes more profitable? Probably not. Although Bezos likes to state his salary at Amazon is $81,000 per annum, last year he actually received a total compensation package that gives him earnings 59 times more than his average employee.
Welcome to the new “Golden Age” with its new brand of fat cat. One who is just as smug, self-righteous and Darwinistic as any Morgan, Carnegie or Rockefeller. So, you can understand why Bezos (and his puppets at the wholly owned Washington Post newspaper) probably sweat bullets when President Trump dared to utter the word “monopoly” when describing Amazon.
Those sentiments are starting to pick up adherents as this tweet from Matt Stolle indicates: “On the post office shipping charges Trump is correct and oddly aligned with postal employees while Bezos isn’t, so I’m going to stick with the postal employees.” If the government acts and forces Amazon to break up, the value of the parts becomes much less than the value of the whole, and Amazon will be crushed. I will miss the convenience of Prime, but will sacrifice it on the altar of civic virtue if it means that a monopoly the likes of which Bezos has founded is rightfully sent to the dustbin of history.
Toward the end of the Second Punic War, Cato The Elder quipped, “Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem delendam ess” (“Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed”). I would append this to say, Ceterum autem censeo Amazonem delendam ess!