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Amazon: The Devil Is In The Details - Dave Kranzler (27/10/2017)

Amazon: The Devil Is In The Details - Dave Kranzler (27/10/2017)
By Dave Kranzler 3 years ago 40272 Views No comments

October 27, 2017

Jeff Bezos/Amazon is the poster-child for the degree to which this entire economic and political system is profoundly corrupt. – Investment Research Dynamics

Amazon stock made a big after-hours “shock and awe” move after it reported a huge headline “beat” of its Q3 earnings. It’s a funny thing how the “beat the Street” game works. Ninety days ago the consensus estimate for Q3 was $1.09, with one estimate as high as $1.59. The estimates were systematically “walked down” over the last 3 months to a mean estimate of 2 cents and a high-end estimate of 26 cents. This is how the game is played.

Make no mistake, the Company knowingly “guides” analysts down in order to engineer a “headline” surprise. This is how absurd this game has become. The “beat the numbers” game is one of the many frauds connected with corporate earnings reports. That said, AMZN’s EPS in Q3 2017 were the same as Q3 2016 – zero EPS growth. Bear in mind that GAAP acquisition accounting manipulation is heavily at play here. Acquisition accounting enables a company to boost revenues and hide expenses.

Here’s just a cursory look at the “Devil in the details” (Short Seller Journal subscribers will get the in-depth, eye-opening analysis in the next issue released Sunday afternoon).

Amazon’s headline revenue “growth” cost AMZN a lot money in terms of operating earnings. Despite the “marquee” 34% sales “growth” rate, AMZN’s operating income plunged nearly 40% year/year for Q3. This drop in operating income has accelerated, as YTD for the first 9 months of 2017, AMZN’s operating income has dropped 32%.

This should have been the quarter that AMZN literally “printed” GAAP income because the quarter included its highly touted “Prime Day” record sales. Furthermore, AMZN should have been able to reap the benefits of merger/acquisition accounting from its Whole Foods acquisition. M&A GAAP standards enable companies literally to manufacturer GAAP accounting profits. I would suggest that Bezos’ price-cut strategy at Whole Foods has driven WFM’s operating margin toward zero (from 4% pre-acquisition) – like the rest of Bezos’ consumer sales businesses. But there’s more…

AMZN’s GAAP net income showed no growth – literally in Q3. In 2016 AMZN reported $252 million in net income for Q3. In 2017 it reported $256 million. EPS were flat at 53 cents (basic). Zero growth. For this, AMZN’s market cap after hours increased by $37 billion. But there’s more…

Without going into the monotony of GAAP tax rate accounting, suffice it to say that anyone who has taken a basic accounting course knows that the GAAP tax rate is highly arbitrary and a major source of EPS manipulation. Again, the Devil is in the details…

In Q3 2016, AMZN used a 47% GAAP tax rate. This latest quarter, AMZN capriciously applied an 18% GAAP tax rate. Had AMZN maintained the same GAAP tax rate used last year, its net income in Q3 2017 would have declined to $200 million, or 41 cents/share. For this, the last buyer after hours ($1,047) was willing to pay 266x trailing twelve month earnings.

This is just the beginning of an in-depth look at the rotting condition of the numbers buried in AMZN’s financial statements. The next issue the Short Seller’s Journal will pull back the curtain on areas of AMZN’s SEC-filed numbers where no Wall Street analyst or financial media cheerleader would ever dare venture. AMZN’s cash flow is declining – and its true free cash flow – not the Bezos non-GAAP “free cash flow” – is negative. And I can prove it.

The highly-touted acquisition of Whole Foods could turn out to be Jeff Bezos’ “Wings of Icarus.” He may have flown too close to the sun on this one.

The information I present in the Short Seller’s Journal is actionable. The last two times AMZN’s stock shot up I put a short recommendation on AMZN’s stock (including put option ideas) which led to profitable short-covering opportunities. In the last issue I advised waiting until after Q3 earnings, stating that a big gap-up in after-hours would lead to another opportunity to short the stock.


Dave Kranzler

Dave Kranzler spent many years working in various Wall Street jobs. After business school, he traded junk bonds for a large bank. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago, with a concentration in accounting and finance, and graduated Oberlin College with majors in Economics and English. Dave has nearly thirty years of experience in studying, researching, analyzing and investing in the financial markets. Currently he co-manages a precious metals and mining stock investment fund in Denver and publishes the Mining Stock and Short Seller Journals. Contact Dave at dkranzler62@gmail.com.


The author is not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by Sprott Money Ltd. The views and opinions expressed in this material are those of the author or guest speaker, are subject to change and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sprott Money Ltd. Sprott Money does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness and reliability of the information or any results from its use.

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