Frenzied pandemic buying pushes Amazon's quarterly revenue past $100bn

Amazon: founder Jeff Bezos will become executive chairman of the company
Amazon: founder Jeff Bezos will become executive chairman of the company

As founder Jeff Bezos announces his move to executive chairman, revenue from Amazon's 'other' category, which includes advertising, soars 64% year-on-year.

Technology giant Amazon reported a blockbuster fourth quarter and full year set of numbers, with revenue topping $100bn for the first time – it rose 43.6%, from $87.4bn to $126bn (£91.9bn).

Operating profit for the period increased 77.52% year on year. Amazon recorded growth across its businesses, ranging from its Amazon Prime media unit to its AWS Cloud business. 

However, the annoucement on earnings was overshadowed by founder Jeff Bezos' annoucement that he will transition to executive chairman and would be replaced as CEO by web services chief Andy Jassy in the third quarter of the year.

“When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention," Bezos said in a statement. "Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition." 

Despite its red-hot growth, Amazon forecast that revenue for the first quarter of the new fiscal is pegged at $100bn to $106bn, an increase of between 33% and 40% from a year ago. Operating income in the same period is projected at $3bn to $6.5bn, assuming the roughly $2bn of costs related to Covid-19.


For the full year 2020, net sales increased 38% to $386bn, compared with $281bn in 2019. Operating income was up to $22.9bn, compared with operating income of $14.5bn in 2019.

Amazon stated that it delivered more than one billion parcels to shoppers around the world, as pandemic-struck consumers flocked online to platforms to wrap up their year-end shopping. Elsewhere, the cloud business too profited from the pandemic, with revenues growing 28% in the period under review to $12.7bn.

Amazon doesn't reveal exact details of its advertising revenues, which it clubs under its "other" category. According to the company this segment brought in nearly $8bn in revenue in Q4, a 64% year-on year increase. 

In addition to this, Amazon's various media businesses continued to grow in 2020. In terms of its Amazon Prime program, CFO Brian Olsavsky told analysts that it had more than 150 million paid members globally now, and "we have more people joined Prime in Q4 than any other quarter before."

In addition, In the US, Prime Video’s coverage of the San Francisco 49ers versus Arizona Cardinals NFL game on December 26 drew an estimated 11.2 million total viewers; in the UK, the number of customers tuning into live Premier League football grew for the second season; and in India, Prime Video announced its first foray into live sports, with the acquisition of India territory rights for New Zealand Cricket through the 2025-26 season.

Unlike other tech companies, Amazon doesn't provide a granular geographic breakdown of its business. According to its investor presentation, net sales in North America rose from $53.7bn in Q4 of 2019 to $75.3bn, as operating income increased from $1.9bn to $2.94bn.

In the international segment, revenue was up from $23.8bn to $37.5bn and the company turned a $613m loss into a $363m profit for the same period. 

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