The online retail and cloud computing giant easily beat analyst expectations that it would bring in $81.24 billion in revenue for its latest quarter, which ended June 30. Amazon’s profits also doubled year-over-year to $5.2 billion in its latest quarter, which is notable considering the company said in April that it was projecting a loss of up to $1.5 billion in its second quarter due to the high costs associated with operating during the coronavirus pandemic.
Amazon chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky told analysts during an earnings call that the company spent over $4 billion on coronavirus-related expenses. These expenditures included adding additional safety measures at the company’s many warehouses and facilities, purchasing personal protective equipment for its numerous workers, and paying a $500 million “thank-you bonus” to logistics and delivery workers.
But the massive increase in consumers buying more goods via Amazon more than made up for the expense. Olsavsky said that online grocery sales tripled year-over-year in the latest quarter from an unspecified number and that customers of Amazon’s Prime paid-subscription service are “shopping more often” and with “larger basket sizes.”
Olsavsky made no mention of Amazon chief Jeff Bezos’s recent grilling by lawmakers on Wednesday during a congressional hearing about antitrust and the power of tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook. Analysts on the earnings call also didn’t address the possible ramifications of the antitrust hearings on Amazon, with questions mostly focusing on the company’s solid quarter and what it plans to do with its unexpected big profits.
Olsavsky said that actions like cutting down on marketing spend and reducing travel and related expenses helped contribute to Amazon’s profits for the quarter. When asked whether Amazon would use the extra cash to spend on new investment areas, Olsavsky said that the company already has “a lot of investments already in place” and that Amazon is “always looking for new investments.” He said that much of Amazon’s spending is going to building the necessary infrastructure required to handle the continued heavy demand from customers.
One area that the company cut back on was its Amazon Studios television and film unit, which Olsavsky attributed to Amazon having “to delay production in most studios”—like much of the entertainment industry—due to COVID-19.
“We are doing that to protect the actors and film crews,” Olsavsky said.
Not everything went smoothly for Amazon during its latest quarter.
Sales in the company’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) cloud computing unit only grew 29% year-over-year to $10.8 billion, which, while impressive, marks a decline in how fast AWS is growing. Last quarter, for instance, AWS revenue rose 33% year-over-year to $10.2 billion. It appears that lower corporate spending in IT services, as measured by Gartner in July, is affecting Amazon’s cloud unit in the same way it’s affecting the Azure cloud computing business of Amazon rival Microsoft, which is also growing more slowly than before.
Olsavsky said that companies in industries like hospitality and travel that have been hit especially hard during the coronavirus pandemic are “working very hard right now to cut expenses,” implying that they are spending less on Amazon’s cloud computing service. He said that Amazon will continue to “help our customers save money” for “the long-term health of the relationship.” In other words, Amazon’s not going to be a stickler with its struggling customers right now, because those companies might want to do some major cloud service purchases when the economy recovers.
Still, Olsavsky said that while most companies are hurting because of COVID-19, there are “certainly winners in this.” He said sectors like video conferencing, gaming, and entertainment are “all seeing usage growth,” meaning that companies in those areas are seeing more consumer demand, and therefore, are spending more on cloud services to accommodate.
Indeed, video conferencing company Zoom, streaming service Netflix, and video-gaming company Electronic Arts—who all use AWS—have all had solid quarters during the pandemic, showing big user growth. You can add Amazon to that list of companies thriving during COVID-19.