For traditional investors, whether growth or value, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) has always presented a hair-raising problem: Amazon stock does not conform to traditional valuation metrics.
Although I might take a stab by valuing it on an operational cash flow basis and compare it to businesses that John Malone has run — for which that was the only way to properly value them — I’m not convinced that would yield any useful results.
Amazon Is Unique
I never want to say, “It’s different this time,” but with Amazon stock I think it is. AMZN hasn’t been able to be valued traditionally for more than twenty years, so, at this point, I don’t think there’s much point in trying.
What we know is that if Jeff Bezos wanted Amazon stock to offer consistency in delivering net profits, he could make it happen. All he’d have to do is slow down growth in places like international sales, which is a money loser, and even cut back on operating expenses for global sales, and deliver a profit.
For the first nine months of 2017, Amazon had North American net sales of $68.8 billion and $67.6 billion in expenses, generating a $1.14 billion profit. Internationally, $36.26 billion in sales was offset by $38.4 billion in expenses for a net loss of $2.14 billion. AWS saw $12.3 billion in sales, offset by $9.37 billion in expenses, for a profit of $2.98 billion. The bottom line for net income came in at $1.18 billion.
But Bezos continually reinvests everything into the company. So, with Amazon stock, it comes down to effectively investing on a leap of faith — faith that the market will always find some form of value in Amazon. However, because it cannot be valued in any relative sense, it means one must either trade Amazon or buy and hold it for the very long term.
So, does that make sense? Yes and no, and it depends on the type of investor you are.
How and Why You Should Invest in Amazon Stock
Here’s the affirmative side of the answer. What we know is that Amazon is muscling its way into all kinds of territories. Yet, it is of particular significance that Amazon stock is ascending not merely because of momentum, but because investors sense that the future of retail rests with Amazon. Not all retail, but much of it.
I know that I purchase 80-90% of my non-food items at Amazon. I will price compare now and again, but Amazon wins that battle 95% of the time — or wins in a tie because I’m a Prime member. Convenience and reliability mean a lot to the retail shopper, not to mention the time savings.
I can imagine a time where small businesses are going to have to be niche-oriented, or deliver something special in order to even have a chance against Amazon. Only bulk retail providers like Costco Inc. (NASDAQ:COST) will stand a chance, because shopping at Costco is an experience and prices are comparable. Or home improvement companies like Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD), which don’t appear to have suffered.
Bottom Line on AMZN Stock
So I think, as an investor, you have to own Amazon stock at some point.
I am not convinced that now is the time, because the market is some 30% overvalued and the second-most expensive in history.
I think the play is to buy Amazon stock in increments, beginning at a 10% correction point, and adding every time it ticks down by 5% or more.
Lawrence Meyers is the CEO of PDL Capital, a specialty lender focusing on consumer finance and is the Manager of The Liberty Portfolio at www.thelibertyportfolio.com. He does not own any stock mentioned. He has 23 years’ experience in the stock market, and has written more than 1,800 articles on investing. Lawrence Meyers can be reached at TheLibertyPortfolio@gmail.com.