Virus expenses hit Amazon’s bottom line

by Glenn CHAPMAN / with Rob Lever in Washington

Amazon said Thursday profits took a hit in the past quarter due to the global pandemic and that its earnings in the current period would be entirely wiped out by COVID-related expenses.

The technology and e-commerce giant said its revenues surged 26 percent in the first three months of 2020 to more than $75 billion, as people stuck at home due to the pandemic turned to it for supplies and entertainment.

But profits slipped 29 percent from a year ago to $2.5 billion for the giant which has been both a lifeline for consumers and a target for some activists.

Chief executive Jeff Bezos said all profits in the April-June quarter would be erased by expenses linked to the global virus outbreak.

“In this coming Q2, we’d expect to make some $4 billion or more in operating profit,” Bezos said.

“But these aren’t normal circumstances. Instead, we expect to spend the entirety of that $4 billion, and perhaps a bit more, on COVID-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe.”

Amazon has become a lifeline for consumers facing lockdowns and restrictions around the world, and the company is in the process of adding some 175,000 new employees to cope with surging demand.

But the company has also faced protests from warehouse workers and activists who claim Amazon has failed to do enough to keep them safe.

Shares in the Seattle-based company slipped some 4.2 percent in after-hours trades that followed release of the earnings report.

Bezos said that “the current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business as never before, but it’s also the hardest time we’ve ever faced.”

“Providing for customers and protecting employees as this crisis continues for more months is going to take skill, humility, invention and money.”

Analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy said Amazon’s list of COVID initiatives was impressive

“I don’t think anyone can accuse Amazon of profiteering from the virus,” Moorhead said. (AFP)