Total sales in Amazon’s fourth quarter in 2013 rose 20% over the last quarter of 2012, hitting $25.59 billion, while net income rose to $239 million from $97 million in last year’s final period. Amazon had projected that sales would rise between 10% to 25% in the quarter with analysts expecting a 23% increase. The sales increase for the quarter was close to that for all of 2013 when revenue rose 22% to $74.45 billion and the e-commerce giant eked out a profit of $274 million compared to a loss of $39 million in 2012.
For the year, total sales in its media group—home to books and e-books—rose 9%, to $21.7 billion, while sales in Amazon’s electronics and general merchandise segment, where Kindle sales are recorded, increased 26%, to $48.8 billion. Its fastest growth came from the “other” segment that includes Amazon’s cloud services and where sales rose 56%, to $3.9 billion.
Amazon had a few book-related nuggets for investors, reporting that the number of titles in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library rose to 475,000, while the number of titles that are part of its new e-bundling service MatchBook increased to over 100,000. Amazon didn't provide any numbers for Amazon Source, its program started in November and designed to have independent bookstores and other retailers sell Kindle devices. Amazon did not respond to a PW question about how many stores have signed up for the program, although the company is continuing its efforts to recruit booksellers.
In North America, full year media sales rose 17%, to $10.8 billion, while egm sales increased 28%, to just under $30 billion. The company's slowest growing division continued to be international media where sales rose 2%, to $10.9 billion. Amazon attributed the slower international media growth rate to a slower transition to digital sales in overseas markets compared to North American where digital sales are growing fast. Amazon said it is early in the digital transition in most international markets and that it expects to see sales growth accelerate overseas.
A major topic of analysts' questions during the conference call was on the announcement that Amazon is considering raising the price of its Prime membership by $20 to $40. The membership, which provides customers with free shipping options, has been priced at $79 since its launch nine years ago. Amazon said it has "tens of millions" of Prime members.
For the first quarter of 2014, Amazon projected sales to rise between 13% and 24% and reported earnings between an operating loss of $200 million and operating income of $200 million.