Amazon is primed for rapid growth

Is Amazon a monopoly?
Is Amazon a monopoly?

Amazon remains unstoppable.

The company accounts for nearly half of all online retail sales in the United States. It continues expanding its brick-and-mortar retail footprint through Whole Foods, Amazon bookstores and new checkout-free convenience locations. And every new venture, from advertising to cloud computing to, perhaps soon, healthcare, almost invariably becomes a billion-dollar business.

Wall Street expects that dominance to continue when Amazon (AMZN) reports its second quarter earning results after the bell Thursday. Analysts expect Amazon's sales to top $53 billion for the three months ending in June, a 40% increase from the same period last year.

All of this growth comes as Amazon does something that once seemed unthinkable: it consistently turns a profit. Analysts expect Amazon to post earnings of $2.50 per share, up from 40 cents a year ago, even as the company continues investing heavily in fulfillment centers, new stores, and pricey content deals.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham wrote in an investor note this month that Amazon has "the most robust and durable growth outlook" of any company in the FANG group, which he defines as including Facebook (FB), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOGL).

Amazon Prime remains central to that growth. More than 100 million people pay for Amazon's subscription service, which includes two-day shipping and access to a growing slate of TV shows and movies. During the quarter, Amazon raised the price of a Prime membership from $99 to $119 a year.

Related: Amazon made Prime indispensable - here's how

"Prime growth remains the key jewel for Amazon going forward," Daniel Ives, an analyst with GBH Insights, wrote in an investor note last week. Amazon moved quickly to capitalize on its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods to attract even more Prime subscribers with discounts and free two-hour deliveries.

And then there's Prime Day, the international shopping day held each year in July. Despite early technical glitches, this year's 36-hour sale was the biggest shopping event in Prime Day's four-year history and brought in a record number of new subscribers.

It's not just Prime, however. Amazon Web Services, the company's cloud computing business, dominates public cloud computing in the face of competition from Microsoft (MSFT) and Google. Its cloud service saw sales climb 50% to more than $5 billion in the first quarter, reinforcing its role as the linchpin of Amazon's profitability streak.

Amazon continues gaining momentum in advertising, too. The company's "other" category, said to consist "primarily" of advertising services, topped $2 billion in sales in the first quarter, more than doubling the year prior. "Amazon is seen as the alternative to Google and Facebook," according to analysts at Deutsche Bank.

These moneymakers let Amazon "invest as hard as ever while also delivering higher profitability," says Dan Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust.

Amazon threatens to match, or even eclipse, Apple (AAPL)'s market value, which would make it the world's most valuable company. A strong earnings performance Thursday could help propel Amazon past Apple and put it on the path to becoming the first company to achieve a market capitalization of $1 trillion.

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