Amazon crushes Q3 expectations even without Prime Day bump

Amazon has continued to reap the rewards of a society increasingly dependent on ecommerce — a trend further fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The company crushed analyst expectations Thursday, reporting net income of $6.3 billion in the third quarter, or $12.37 per diluted share, compared with $2.1 billion in net income, or $4.23 per diluted share in the same quarter last year. 

The company brought in a total of $96.15 billion in revenue, a 37.4% increase from the $69.98 billion it generated in the same period last year. It’s worth noting that Amazon achieved these results without the benefit of Prime Day, the annual shopping event that is typically held in July. The sales event, which was delayed until October, is the major driver of new Prime subscriptions, and therefore revenue.

Analysts polled by Yahoo expected earnings per share of $7.41 on average, up from $4.23 last year. Analysts expected revenue of $92.7 billion, up from $69.98 billion in the same year-ago period. 

While the third-quarter numbers beat expectations and the company’s cloud-computing service AWS continued to grow, it’s worth noting the YoY rate of net sales growth slowed.

AWS generated $11.6 billion in sales in the third quarter, a 7.4% increase from the previous quarter and a 29% rise from the same period last year. That sounds dandy — and it is — but it’s actually smaller growth rate than the 35% YoY sales growth the segment experienced in the third quarter of 2019. Still, AWS is still bringing in lots of revenue — in absolute dollars this quarter, it’s the largest Amazon has ever seen, CFO Brian Olsavsky noted on a call with analysts.

The financials released Thursday also showed growth from the second period of this year, which was considered at the time a “killer quarter” by just about every measure. Revenue grew 8% and net income popped 21% from the second quarter, figures that suggest that consumers have yet to reach their limit for commerce delivered to their doorsteps.  

Meanwhile, Amazon reported that its operating cash flow increased 56% to $55.3 billion for the trailing 12 months compared to $35.3 billion for the trailing period ended September 30, 2019. Free cash flow (operating cash flow less capital expenditures) also rose to $29.5 billion in the third quarter compared with $23.5 billion in the trailing period ended September 30, 2019. 

Looking ahead, Amazon is bullish on sales, but notes costs related to COVID-19 might affect operating income. The company said it expects sales to grow between 28% and 38% in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2019, which would bump that figure to between $112 billion and $121 billion, thanks to the delayed Prime Day event.

Amazon said it expects operating income to be between $1 billion and $4.5 billion, compared with $3.9 billion in fourth quarter 2019. This guidance assumes approximately $4 billion of costs related to COVID-19.