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Amazon Earnings Soar in Q4

Amazon Earnings
Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) reported strong fourth-quarter earnings today, capping a solid year for the e-commerce bellwether.

For the quarter, Amazon said its net income rose 71 percent to $384 million, or $0.85 per diluted share, compared with net income of $225 million, or $0.52 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The performance beat Wall Street consensus, which had estimates of $0.72 per share for the quarter on revenue of $9.04 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

Net sales also topped estimates, increasing 42 percent to $9.52 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with $6.70 billion for the same quarter a year ago. Amazon also said that growth shrank to 37 percent after excluding a $354 million bump from favorable exchange rates.

For the full year, Amazon said net sales increased 28 percent to $24.51 billion, or 29 percent -- not including a $182 million unfavorable impact from exchange rate changes -- compared with $19.17 billion in 2008.

Amazon's founder and CEO Jeff Bezos made special note of the impact the company's Kindler e-Reader has had on the industry, though he continued to shy away from breaking out too much detail on the product.

"Millions of people now own Kindles. And Kindle owners read, a lot. When we have both editions, we sell six Kindle books for every 10 physical books," he said in a statement. "This is year-to-date and includes only paid books -- free Kindle books would make the number even higher. It's been an exciting 27 months."

Other notable details from Amazon's report include figures for North America sales. Amazon said the company's U.S. and Canadian site's sales were $4.96 billion, up 36 percent from fourth quarter of 2008.

International sales did even better on a percentage basis. Sales at Amazon's U.K., German, Japanese, French and Chinese sites, were $4.56 billion, up 49 percent from the fourth quarter in 2008. Excluding the favorable impact from foreign exchange rates, Amazon said international sales grew 37 percent.

Amazon said its media sales globally grew 29 percent to $4.68 billion. Excluding the favorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, sales grew 23 percent.

Breaking out sales of electronics and what it described as "Other General Merchandise," Amazon said sales grew 60 percent to $4.61 billion. The percentage jump drops again, to 54 percent, once the favorable impact of year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates is taken into account.

Additionally, Amazon's $847 million acquisition of Zappos.com back in November 2009 is paying off, contributing approximately $200 million to fourth quarter revenue.

Amazon's reader will be on the iPad

In a conference call with financial analysts, CFO Thomas Szkutak declined to break out sales figures or provide guidance for the Kindle or offer any projections for the recently-acquired Zappos.com. Amazon recognizes multiple revenue streams for the Kindle including sales of the device itself and a percentage of content sales.

He did say Amazon's e-Reader application, now available for the iPhone, would also be available on Apple's new iPad device slated for release in late March.

Szkutak also did not specifically address competition from Apple or others, other than to underscore confidence in Amazon's Kindle strategy.

"We think we're positioned very nicely. We have long standing relationships with our partners and we're focused on our customers; Kindle is a good example of that," he said. "We think we've built a nice reading device. We believe readers deserve a dedicated device with a good selection of titles."

Updated to include comments from today's analyst's call.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.