Amazon.com beats analyst estimates in Q1

Online retailer Amazon.com Inc. reported first quarter 2003 pro forma earnings Thursday that beat analyst expectations, citing lowered costs and increased U.S. and international sales.

Amazon.com reported a first-quarter net loss of US$10 million, or US$0.03 per share, compared with a loss of US$23 million in the first quarter of 2002, or US$0.06 per share.

The company reported pro forma net income of US$40 million, or earnings of US$0.10 per share, compared with a pro forma net loss of US$5 million, or a loss of US$0.01 per share, for the year-ago quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call predicted earnings of $0.04 a share.

Net sales for the first quarter totaled US$1.08 billion, a 28 percent increase from US$847 million for the year-ago quarter.

Amazon.com said the strategy of driving down costs to give customers lower prices paid off in making this quarter its first non-holiday quarter in which it achieved sales over US$1 billion.

Revenue from North America grew 13 percent year-over-year, to US$705 million, Amazon.com said in a statement. The company's international sales, representing its U.K., German, French and Japanese sites, grew to US$379 million in the first quarter, up 45 percent from a year ago after adjustments for changes in currency exchange rates. Operating income from the international segment was US$16 million, a US$27 million increase and reversing a loss from the year-ago quarter, the company said in a statement.

The results come on the heels of strong sales reported for the fourth-quarter of 2002, which were pinned on thriving holiday and international sales.

Amazon.com predicted second-quarter net sales of between US$1 billion and US$1.05 billion, a year-over-year increase of between 24 percent and 30 percent. The company expects second-quarter operating income of between US$45 million and US$60 million.

For the full year 2003, Amazon.com expects net sales to total US$4.7 billion or more, an increase of more than 19 percent compared to the previous year. The company expects operating income to be US$275 million or more, up more than 50 percent over the previous year.

Amazon also announced that it has been taking worldwide pre-orders for copies of the anticipated J.K. Rowling book "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." The company will deliver copies of the book to customers in the U.S. and Canada on June 21, the first day the book will be available to the public.

In addition to selling books, CDs, DVDs, apparel, games and other sundry items, the retailer may also be selling domain names in the near future. Amazon acquired accreditation as a domain name registrar in early March.

The quarter has not been all rosy, however. Earlier in the week the company was hit with a complaint alleging that it violates children's privacy rules. It is unclear how or if the complaint will affect the company, but raises issues as to how the site is perceived by consumers.

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