Amazon’s Shock And Awe Earnings

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Amazon’s Shock And Awe Earnings

Yesterday ahead of earnings, AMZN’s stock dropped $ 60, with $ 30 of that drop occurring in the last hour of trading.   It’s almost as if market-makers, with their customary preview of the impending AMZN headline EPS report in hand,  intentionally took the price down to set-up a short-trap.  AMZN stock closed at $ 1390, down $ 60 from Wednesday’s close.

Shortly thereafter, AMZN’s earnings headline showed $ 3.85/share, more than double the consensus estimate produced by Wall Street’s Einstein Center For Earnings Forecasts.  $ 1.85 was the expectation.  AMZN’s stock shot up to as high as $ 1480 in after hours, up as much as $ 90 from the close.  Imagine how much money the Big Bank trading desks made assuming they bought all the shares that were sold short in the last hour of trading on Thursday.

Within the first eight minutes of today’s open, AMZN stock shot up to as high as $ 1495, up $ 105 from Thursday’s close.  As I write this, AMZN is trading below Wednesday’s close of $ 1450:

A round-trip to nowhere, essentially. Here’s the funny thing about AMZN’s earnings that Wall Street’s finest will never report, if they even know the truth. Embedded in AMZN’s net income is a $ 789 million non-cash “provisional” tax benefit for the estimated impact of the new tax law. Note that this is a somewhat arbitrarily determined number – which is why its labelled “provisional” – and it’s non-cash. This GAAP, non-cash tax “benefit,” as guesstimated by AMZN’s accountants, added $ 1.63 per share to AMZN’s headline EPS report.

Regardless of how you want to account for this, at face value AMZN’s stock is trading at 233x trailing earnings.  Not including the GAAP, non-cash tax benefit, AMZN stock is trading at 315x trailing earnings.

This is not the only problem with the quality of AMZN’s earnings.  I’ve dissected AMZN’s entire  financials for my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers, as reported, showing the areas in which AMZN has exploited the current highly liberalized GAAP accounting standards to generate the  appearance of financial performance that is not real.

Despite Jeff Bezos’ claim that AMZN generated $ 8.4 billion LTM “free cash flow,” this misleading metric was down 20% from the end of Q4 2016.  But that’s on display in the earnings slides that AMZN publishes every quarter.  On a true GAAP basis, AMZN generated an LTM cash flow deficit – i.e. negative $ 1.46 billion.

This is just a small portion of AMZN’s accounting abortion.  Unfortunately, until the capital markets are no longer willing to finance AMZN’s cash burning Rube Goldberg operational structure, the stock is very difficult to short.  There will come a time, however, when sand gets blown into Jeff Bezos’ elaborate gears of deception.  When this occurs, the rush for the exits by shareholder will be epic.

Investment Research Dynamics

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Dave Kranzler

Dave Kranzler spent many years working in various Wall Street jobs. After business school, he traded junk bonds for a large bank. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago, with a concentration in accounting and finance, and graduated Oberlin College with majors in Economics and English. Dave has nearly thirty years of experience in studying, researching, analyzing and investing in the financial markets. Currently he co-manages a precious metals and mining stock investment fund in Denver and publishes the Mining Stock and Short Seller Journals.