Amazon is finally starting to behave like a real business

Image: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Amazon’s failure to consistently generate a profit even as its revenues swell has become a point of frustration for investors. That’s beginning to change.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, Amazon recorded its biggest profit ever, at $482 million. And then, for the first quarter of 2016, the company did it again—this time reporting net income of $513 million. The longtime prophet of no-profit has now been in the black for six straight quarters.

But founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has shown little concern for placating investors at the expense of pursuing his ambitious plans. For this quarter at least, Wall Street is thrilled. Amazon’s stock leapt 12% in after-hours trading on Thursday, to around $675 a share.

Net sales grew to $29.1 billion, up 28% from the same period a year earlier. That topped analyst estimates, which were looking for sales to come in around $28 billion. Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud-computing cash cow, generated $2.57 billion in revenue—an increase of 64% year-over-year.

Amazon didn’t release any new data on its Prime membership service, but analysts believe the company’s subscribers are still climbing in the US. “Amazon continues to grow its subscribers in the US at a very healthy rate,” analysts for Cowen and Company wrote in a research note on April 25. Surveys by Cowen peg the share of US households with a Prime subscription at 40%. The firm said those subscribers accounted for 53% of total Amazon purchasers, an all-time high and 40% increase from a year earlier. Prime members are thought to spend nearly twice as much at Amazon each year as non-members do.