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Amazon's Prime Day is about to deliver for investors too

Although second-quarter profit was lower than expected, Amazon says Prime Day will help sales grow more this summer.

CEO Jeff Bezos says Amazon's move to offer one-day delivery for Prime subscribers has encouraged more people to shop on the site.
Angela Lang/CNET

We already knew Amazon's annual Prime Day summer sales event was huge, but it turns out the e-commerce giant's business is growing aside from that too.

For the current quarter, which includes Amazon's record-breaking Prime Day event last week, the company said it expects revenue of between $66 billion and $70 billion, the midpoint of which is above the $67.3 billion expected by analysts.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said his company's recent move to offer one-day delivery for subscribers to its $119 a year Prime membership was helping to encourage more people to shop on the site.

"Customers are responding to Prime's move to one-day delivery -- we've received a lot of positive feedback and seen accelerating sales growth," he said in a statement. "Free one-day delivery is now available to Prime members on more than 10 million items, and we're just getting started."

For its second quarter, Amazon reported on Thursday that revenue rose to $63.4 billion, higher than the $62.5 billion expected by analysts. It's also 20% higher than the $52.9 billion it posted last year.

The company posted a profit of $2.6 billion, or $5.22 per share in the three months ended June 30. That was less than the average $5.57 per share analysts polled by Reuters were expecting. 

Even though Amazon's profit was about 3% more than the $5.07 per share it reported the same time last year, it wasn't enough to satisfy investors. They pushed the company's stock down more than 1.5% in after-hours trading to $1,942.92 per share. Amazon's stock has risen 30% so far this year.

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Amazon's report comes at a mixed time for Amazon. The company faced a rough start to 2019, with a wall of opposition from local activists for its HQ2 development project in New York. In February, Amazon scrapped the project, despite having spent more than a year searching for a location. A similarly sized campus is still planned for Arlington, Virginia.

The drama brought attention to Amazon's mammoth size as the world's largest e-commerce company. Regulators and lawmakers in Washington, DC, have signaled a new interest in reining in tech's biggest companies, including Facebook, Google and Amazon. 

Earlier this week, the Department of Justice announced a sweeping antitrust investigation targeting tech giants. And on Wednesday, Facebook announced a broad $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and a $100 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, both stemming from its handling of privacy and data leaks.

"Today's big tech companies have [too much power over] our economy, our society, and our democracy," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate from Massachusetts, wrote in a blog post earlier this year. "They've bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation." 

Quick growth

Amazon isn't just an e-commerce giant, it's also a massive online service powering apps and websites through its Amazon Web Services group. That team, known as AWS, tallied sales growth of more than 37% to $8.3 billion, while profit grew nearly 30% to more than $2.1 billion.

Meanwhile, Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, which powers devices like the Fire Tablet, Echo speaker and AmazonBasics Microwave, was also a standout, the company said. During Prime Day, for example, Amazon offered deals specifically through Alexa, and it's been expanding the assistant's capabilities to work with cars.

"We're seeing a lot of great momentum with usage, and how customers are interacting with Alexa," Brian Olsavsky, Amazon's CFO, said on a conference call.

But the big standout, he said, was one-day shipping. "It's becoming more a part of your routine, at least that's what we're seeing in North America," he said.

Originally published July 25, 1:22 p.m. PT.
Update, 3:38 p.m. PT: Adds notes from the CFO conference call.