Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), the world’s largest online retailer, surged to a record after Morgan Stanley said the company’s network of distribution centers will help it win share in an expanding global e-commerce market.
The stock advanced 3.6 percent to $268.46 today in New York, the highest price since the shares began trading in 1997. Morgan Stanley upgraded Amazon to overweight from equal-weight and maintained its $325 price estimate.
Amazon is investing across the company to boost the volume of products sold on its site, adding features to its Kindle line of e-readers and tablets and beefing up its inventory and shipping network. The efforts may help Amazon gain share in a worldwide e-commerce market that Scott Devitt, an analyst a Morgan Stanley, estimated will reach $1 trillion by 2016, up from $512 billion last year, By then, Amazon’s share will be 23.5 percent, pushing net sales to $166 billion, he predicted.
“Amazon.com’s fulfillment network is an under appreciated, strategic asset.” Devitt wrote in the Jan. 6 report. He had previously projected 2016 sales of $145 billion and a 20.6 percent market share. “Companies, such as Amazon.com, that have the ability to decrease variable unit costs in exchange for fixed-costs will have the opportunity to expand margins and take share.”
In the third quarter alone, Amazon announced 19 new fulfillment centers, and reported a 35 percent increase in costs associated with the network of warehouses, compared with the same period a year earlier.
Outside sellers, which accounted for 41 percent of units sold on the site in the quarter, are helping to drive warehouse expansion. The third party vendors pay to ship merchandise from Amazon’s warehouses, leaving Amazon with 100 percent profit on its commission from the sales.
“We feel very good about the investments we’re making in fulfillment capacity,” Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said on a conference call Oct. 25. “We have a lot of experience starting up new facilities, operating those efficiently and to the point where, as you know we’ve extended that not only to offer that service for our retail business, we also offer that to sellers to fulfill by Amazon.”
Roadblocks in emerging markets such as Russia and Brazil have slowed the company’s international expansion, Devitt said. Consumers in Brazil often pay for online purchases through installments, while those in Russia wait until items are delivered to pay with cash, he said. That’s a stark contrast to the payments U.S. users make with one click of a mouse using credit cards on file with Amazon.
Still, no other company in the world operates in every region Amazon does, Devitt said.
“Amazon.com appears to be redefining the fulfillment learning curve as it grows, and this may likely lead to sustainable barriers to any other global entrant,” he said in the note.
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