Amazon’s valuation briefly surpassed $1 trillion

Amazon briefly reached a market cap of over $1 trillion earlier today, becoming the second US-based company to cross the mark after Apple, which also hit the 13-digit number back in August, via CNBC.

The company’s stock reached a record high of $2,050.50 per share earlier today, which was enough to propel it past the $2,050.27 threshold it needed to cross the $1 trillion mark, although the price has since dropped back down. Given the volatile nature of the stock exchange and the fact that markets are still active, it’s likely that Amazon will fluctuate back and forth beyond the $1 trillion mark in the coming days.

Amazon is the second US-based company to hit a market cap of $1 trillion, and the third internationally (after PetroChina briefly reached $1 trillion back in 2007).

A second Amazon Go cashier-less store has opened in downtown Seattle

Amazon today opened its second Amazon Go store in Seattle — just a bit earlier than the projected fall timeline that was reported last month. The opening is part of Amazon’s gradual rollout of its cashier-less convenience stores that are expected to launch in other cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Unlike the first location, the second Amazon Go store is smaller and will not feature a working kitchen or a liquor section. Designed to cater to office workers, the store will offer products like baked goods, ready-to-eat meals, and Amazon’s own line of Blue Apron-like meal kits. It has limited weekday hours: located on 5th and Marion in downtown Seattle, it will only operate between 7AM and 7PM Monday through Friday.

Amazon opened its first cashier-less store December 2016, which allows customers to enter the store by scanning a barcode on their smartphone app. From there, Amazon tracks the customer as they move around the store, and it bills items they take off the shelves directly to the account that was used to scan in, bypassing the need for a check-out cashier or counter. The company even boasted that the system was smart enough to distinguish between three Amazon employees who dressed up in Pikachu costumes to try to simulate a robbery.

The push into high-tech retail has caused rivals like Walmart to amp up its own offerings and solutions. Over the past year, Walmart began offering meal kits, it partnered with Waymo to offer customers self-driving car rides to pick up their grocery orders, and it began working with Postmates to expand its grocery delivery service.

Walmart’s latest move to compete with Amazon is a Kobo ebook and audiobook store

Walmart’s latest move to stay competitive with Amazon as the two retailers expand aggressively into new markets is an ebook and audiobook store with its Japan partner Rakuten. Rakuten, which has owned Canadian e-reader brand Kobo since 2011, partnered with Walmart back in January to distribute Kobo e-readers in the US with preloaded and co-branded software for buying digital books. Now, the two companies are taking the partnership one step further with the launch of Walmart eBooks.

The store has more than 6 million titles and an Audible-like monthly subscription service for audiobooks. In an attempt to pull customers away from Audible, Walmart’s audiobook subscription costs only $9.99, compared to Audible’s introductory $14.95 price, as noted by TechCrunch. In addition to the launch of the ebook store, Walmart and Kobo co-branded apps are also launching on iOS and Android today. That way, you can access titles without a physical Kobo e-reader, similar to how Amazon distributes Kindle software.

It’s an open question whether any of this will chip away at Amazon’s hold on the ebook market, with Kindle controlling more than 80 percent of all US sales. Although this may be less about breaking into the ebook and e-reader market than it is about Walmart offering its customers — a vast majority of whom shop at its brick-and-mortar big box stores — a comprehensive alternative to Amazon.

The two companies have historically had different customer bases, but that’s beginning to change as Amazon moves offline into groceries, thanks to its Whole Foods acquisition, and ever-faster delivery methods. Walmart, seeing the need to compete in new markets years down the line, has started aggressively partnering with technology companies and building everything from an Amazon Prime and Prime Video competitor to a robust grocery delivery network. With Kobo, Walmart clearly sees an opportunity to market an alternative to Kindle. We’ll have to see if the retailer and its Japanese partner can make any headway against Kindle’s dominance.

Amazon’s hugely profitable quarter pushes it toward a $1 trillion valuation

Amazon reported earnings for the second quarter of 2018 today, posting an even higher profit than Wall Street analysts estimated thanks in large part to boosts in North American operating income, its highly profitable cloud computing business, and booming sales in its growing ad division. Amazon reported earnings per share of $5.07, more than double of analysts’ estimation of $2.50.

That equates to a quarterly profit of $2.5 billion, Amazon’s highest ever and a staggering 1,200 percent increase from this time a year ago, when the company posted a profit of only $197 million. This is the third consecutive quarter Amazon has posted profit of more than $1 billion, and the first time it has ever broken $2 billion. Helping its numbers is Amazon’s fast-growing ad business, which topped $2 billion in sales for the first time this past quarter, a 132 percent year-over-year jump.

Amazon fell just short of revenue expectations by bringing in $52.9 billion instead of the expected $53.41. Yet Amazon Web Services continues to grow at a rapid pace, posting $6 billion in sales compared to $4.1 billion last year at a growth rate just shy of 50 percent. Last quarter, Amazon released the next-generation Fire TV Edition smart TV, including the new Toshiba 4K TV, as well as the Fire TV Cube, helping it in the retail sales department.

Internationally, the segment that Amazon tends to do the worst in, the company managed to spend more and sell more, slimming its net loss to $494 million this year so far, compared to $724 million from this time a year ago. Amazon’s chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky said during the earnings call that “we’re very bullish on international investment.” He credits advertising and marketing for the improved margins and explains that the company will continue to spend more upfront on expansion efforts because “we believe it’s the right thing to do.”

The company also revealed that the recent Prime Day last week was its biggest sale day yet, selling over 100 million products, even though the website crashed at the time the event began. (Prime Day sales aren’t factored into this past quarter’s metrics, and will instead roll over to third quarter of the year.) The company also noted how the event prompted more people to sign up for Prime than any other previous day in the company’s history.

At the time of writing, Amazon’s stock is up 4.4 percent in after-hours trading. The company’s stock is nearing a $1 trillion market value, which would be a first for any global company.

Update July 26th, 6PM ET: This article has been updated with comments from Amazon’s chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky.