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Amazon manages to find a mere sliver of profit – just $2bn – out of $61bn in end-of-year sales

AWS continues to rake in billions, too

By Thomas Claburn in San Francisco

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Amazon.com said its Q4 2017 net sales reached $60.5bn, an increase of 38 per cent from the $43.7bn reported by the tech giant during the same period a year earlier.

Analysts had been expecting somewhat less, $59.83bn, according to Thomson Reuters.

The earnings were revealed on Thursday, and lifted the book-selling, server-renting, somewhat-under-paying website's stock in after-hours trading by more than six per cent to $1,479.50 apiece, at the time this story was filed.

Other salient figures for the three months to the end of December include:

In a statement, chief exec Jeff Bezos chose to focus on his firm's Alexa AI assistant, which he said had far exceeded expectations.

"We’ve reached an important point where other companies and developers are accelerating adoption of Alexa," gushed Bezos. "There are now over 30,000 skills from outside developers, customers can control more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands with Alexa, and we’re seeing strong response to our new far-field voice kit for manufacturers."

The e-commerce biz said it sold "tens of millions" of Echo devices – which house the Alexa software – last year.

Coincidentally, research firm Canalys on Thursday said it expects "smart speakers" (the Echo family of products, Google Home, Apple HomePod, and the like) to be the fastest growing consumer tech product line in 2018, reaching 50 million units shipped. It estimates that Amazon sold about 21 million such devices in 2017.

On a conference call for investors, chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky attributed the successful quarter to the company's deft handling of record order volume as well as to growth in advertising revenue.

"We want customers to be able to see new brands and have an easier time discovering new products they're looking for," said Olsavsky. "...We're working with advertisers to all types and sizes to help them reach out customer base."

Looking ahead, Amazon said it expects net sales for Q1 2018 to range from $47.75bn and $50.75bn, reflecting projected growth between 34 and 42 per cent. ®

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