It took Amazon 14 years to make as much in net profit as it did last quarter

Life is good.
Life is good.
Image: Reuters/Rick Wilking
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Amazon, so long light on profits, reported a whopping $1.86 billion in net income in the fourth quarter of 2017.

For a sense of scale, it took Amazon more than 14 years—58 quarters after its May 1997 initial public offering—to make, cumulatively, as much profit as it produced in the latest quarter alone.

Keep in mind that Amazon consistently lost money for its first several years as a public company. It first reported a quarterly profit in the fourth quarter of 2001 and, at $5 million, it barely counted. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has long maintained that investing in future growth is more important than hitting quarterly earnings targets, much to Wall Street’s chagrin.

But what about that fat tax benefit? In the most recent quarter, Amazon’s results were bolstered by the US tax cut, which added about $790 million to its profit in accounting terms. If you strip that out, it would have taken 13 years instead of 14.