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Electronics sales boost Amazon

The e-tail giant reports a first-quarter loss that slightly beats Wall Street estimates, fueled by strong sales of electronics that offset weak performance in books, music and video. posted a first-quarter loss Tuesday that was smaller than Wall Street had expected.

The Seattle-based company posted a pro forma net loss of $49 million, or 21 cents per share, excluding investment and other nonoperating losses. A year ago, Amazon posted a pro forma loss of $99 million, or 35 cents per share.

Analysts expected Amazon to lose 25 cents per share, according to a survey by First Call. The company's numbers were helped by strong electronics sales that balanced out weakness in Amazon's books, video and music departments.

"I see this as generally positive across the board," said Jeetil Patel, a financial analyst with Deutsche Banc Alex Brown. But noting that the company's books, music and video departments grew only about 2 percent year over year, Patel said that segment was a "key area to think about going forward."

The company's stock closed the regular trading session on the Nasdaq down 52 cents, or about 3 percent, to $15.68. In after-hours trading on the Island ECN, Amazon's stock was up 32 cents to $16.

Net loss for the period was $234 million, or 66 cents per share, on revenue of $700 million. That compares with a loss $308 million, or 90 cents per share, on revenue of $574 million in the same period in 2000.

Earlier this month, in a preview of Tuesday's report, Amazon projected that its revenue would be higher and pro forma net loss lower than analysts had previously expected. The company said it expected to post a pro forma loss of less than $50 million, or 22 cents per share, on net sales of more than $695 million.

Wall Street expected the company to post a 30-cents-per-share pro forma loss on about $670 million in revenue before Amazon's preview.

The company posted a gross profit margin of $183 million, or 26 percent of revenue. Gross profit margin is the difference between what a company charges consumers for its goods and services and what its costs the company to provide those goods or services. In the same quarter last year, the company posted a profit margin of $128 million, or 22 percent of sales.

Amazon ended the quarter with $643 million in cash and marketable securities. Including inventories and prepaid expenses, the company had $856 million in assets.

But the company also reported liabilities of $605 million, leaving it with about $250 million in working capital, a figure closely watched by its suppliers and analysts. In the year-ago quarter, Amazon had about $386 million in working capital.

The company's new businesses, including its electronics, tools and kitchen products stores, posted a pro forma operating loss of $45.8 million on $116.5 million in sales. In the year-ago quarter, that segment lost $67.2 million on $74.6 million in sales.

Amazon's international operations grew significantly in the quarter, posting revenue of $132.1 million compared with $75.1 million last year. The pro forma operating loss on those operations also grew, rising from $27.4 million last year to $34.6 million.

In contrast, Amazon's core media stores--its books, music and video departments--saw sales grow just $8.2 million, or 2 percent year over year. In the year-ago quarter, the company posted a pro forma operating loss of $2.4 million on $401.4 million in its media stores. In the first quarter of this year, Amazon posted $27.6 million in income on $409.6 million in sales in its media stores.