Earnings: Happy Holidays For Amazon, As Profits Rise 9 Percent; Kindle Demand Unusually Strong

imageThe holiday was depressing for most retailers, but Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) did pretty well comparatively. The online retailer said Q4 net income grew 9 percent to $225 million, or $0.52 per share, up from last year’s $207 million, or $0.48 per share, while net sales were up 18 percent to $6.70 billion. The Seattle-based company beat consensus estimates from FactSet research, who had expected earnings of $0.40 cents a share on revenue of $6.48 billion, via MarketWatch. The company’s aggressive discount strategy for Q4 appears to have paid off. Amazon’s shares rose over 10 percent in after-hours trading to $54.70.

Full 2008: Net sales gained 29 percent to $19.17 billion. Profits grew 36 percent to $645 million in 2008, or $1.49 per diluted share.

Worldwide: Sales increased 9 percent to $3.64 billion, compared with $3.33 billion in Q407.

Still holding back on Kindle, MP3 info: Amazon didn’t have anything more substantive to say about Kindle, aside from noting that demand was “strong” in Q4. The company also said the e-book reader’s selection grew by 45,000 titles in the quarter, bringing the total to 230,000 titles. Also, newspapers in eight of the top 10 metro areas in the U.S. became available on Kindle by the end of Q4. No new real info on its MP3 download business, either, noting only that Amazon.co.uk launched the Amazon MP3 music service with more than 4 million DRM-free songs. Hopefully, Amazon execs will offer more details on the investors’ call this afternoon.

Earnings release | Webcast | Transcript (via Seeking Alpha)

Conference call: Asked about Kindle in various ways during the call, the Amazon execs offered very little. That followed CFO Tom Szkutak’s reminder that since Kindle revenue and costs are recognized over a two-year period, the company wouldn’t say much. (What? You were expecting confirmation that the second-gen Kindle is being announced Feb. 9?) Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos continues to insist the e-book sales aren’t cannibalizing print, and that Kindle owners continue to buy the same amount of print books. They buy about 1.6 to 1.7 Kindle books, for every physical book that they buy, he said. (Amazon has used 1.6 as the number until now.) Asked if he’d seen any major surprises with Kindle, Bezos said the biggest surprise so far “was the unusually strong demand that we saw in the fourth quarter. We had anticipated strong demand, and what we saw was stronger than that.”

Blu-ray: As for possible weakness in DVD sales and comments on Blu-ray, Szkutak said he couldn’t comment much because they don’t break out DVD numbers for earnings. “We like the Blu-ray business. And we certainly have great selection in DVDs as well as

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