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Amazon shames eBay with 24 per cent profit bulge

Meltdown talks to the hand

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eBay blames its shrinking revenues on the melting economy. But sales continue to expand over at Amazon.com, eBay's conspicuous rival in the e-commerce game.

During the first three months of the year, Amazon sales reached $4.9bn, a 18 per cent leap from the same quarter last year. And if you ignore the impact of inconvenient currency exchange rates, you can argue a 25 per cent revenue climb. That translates to quarterly profits of $177m, a 24 per jump from early 2008.

During a conference call with analysts and reporters, chief financial officer Thomas J. Szkutak indicated that the company has noticed some sort of growth slowdown during the past two quarters. But this hardly compares to the epic shrinkage over at eBay, which just recorded a year-over-year revenue decline for the second quarter running. Before Q4, eBay had never endured such a drop for even a single quarter.

"Starting in Q4, we saw solid growth rates, but certainly not a strong as we saw from the several quarters previous to that and we saw the same thing again in Q1," Amazon's Szkutak said. In the first three quarters of last year, Amazon's revenue growth topped 30 per cent year-on-year, the CFO said.

"But," he added, "we're not doing anything different than we've done in the past."

In addition to growing its core etail biz - sales of electronics and other general merchandise grew 38 per cent to $2.05bn - it appears that Amazon is eating away at eBay's secondhand merchandise biz. Per usual, Amazon failed to offer specific numbers for third-party sales. But it did say that the number of third party items shipped through its Fulfillment by Amazon service increase 300 per cent year-on-year.

In typical fashion, the company attempted to lay the credit for this ridiculously healthy quarter on its new Kindle 2 ebook.

"We're grateful and excited that Kindle sales have exceeded our most optimistic expectations," read a canned statement from chief executive Jeff Bezos tucked into the company's Q1 press release. But as usual, the company gives no indication of how many Kindles it has actually sold. ®

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