Amazon records first profitable year in its history Inc.'s net revenue and net profit both grew healthily in its fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2003, compared with 2002's fourth quarter, and helped the online retailer close 2003 with an annual profit, a first for the company, it announced Tuesday.

The fourth quarter's net revenue rose 36 percent to US$1.95 billion. Net profit grew to US$73 million, or US$0.17 per share, compared with net profit of US$3 million, or US$0.01 per share, in 2002's fourth quarter.

Excluding one-time charges, Amazon's pro forma net profit was US$125 million, or USUS$0.29 per share, meeting the consensus expectation from financial analysts polled by Thomson First Call.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive officer, in a statement credited the company's low prices, free shipping options and wide variety of products for the strong quarterly results.

Viewing the results geographically, Amazon's North American fourth quarter net revenue grew 18 percent year on year to US$1.14 billion. Amazon's U.S. and Canadian Web sites make up its North America region. Meanwhile, international net revenue rose 74 percent to US$804 million. This includes sales from Amazon's Web sites for the U.K., Germany, France and Japan.

For the full year, net revenue grew 34 percent to US$5.26 billion. Net profit came in at US$35 million, or US$0.08 per share, compared with a net loss of US$149 million, or US$0.39 per share, in 2002.

Looking ahead, Amazon expects first-quarter 2004 net revenue to be between US$1.39 billion and US$1.49 billion, an increase of between 28 percent and 38 percent, compared with the first quarter of 2003. For the full year 2004, net revenue is expected to be between US$6.20 billion and US$6.70 billion.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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