Amazon's cuts forecast for holiday sales on stronger US dollar, shares dive

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc's sales projections for the crucial holiday quarter disappointed Wall Street and third-quarter results missed forecasts, sending the online retailer's shares 9 per cent lower on Thursday.

Some analysts fear that the U.S. holiday shopping season, the biggest quarter for most retailers, might turn out weaker than anticipated.

Amazon projected on Thursday net sales of between US$27.3 billion and US$30.3 billion for the holiday quarter, lagging the US$30.89 billion analysts had expected on average.

Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak told reporters a stronger US dollar had reduced its fourth-quarter revenue forecast by about 2.5 percentage points. A stronger dollar means overseas revenue translates to less in the home currency.

He added that Amazon sales in Japan in the third-quarter failed to recover from their second-quarter decline.

The earnings report comes about a week after e-commerce rival eBay Inc trimmed its own full-year revenue outlook due in part to the stronger U.S. dollar.

After an unusually busy first half of the year that saw the online retailer spend on developing everything from mobile phones and Hollywood-style production to grocery deliveries, investors were ready to see it curtail its ambitions and start delivering sustainable profits.

But not only did it post a much larger loss than expected, Amazon also projected 7 to 18 per cent revenue growth over the busiest shopping period of the year, a far cry from the 20 per cent-plus pace that had convinced investors to overlook its persistent lack of profit in the past.

Thursday's after-hours share losses wipe more than US$15 billion off of Amazon's market value. The stock had already been down 13 per cent since Amazon's last quarterly results announcement in July, when it also missed targets and ignited a debate about its free spending ways.

Amazon's third-quarter net loss widened to US$437 million or 95 cents per share in the third quarter, from US$41 million a 9 cents a year ago. That came in larger than forecasts for a loss of 74 cents a share.

Revenue also fell short of expectations. Net sales rose to US$20.58 billion, but that lagged forecasts for US$20.84 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares in the company slid more than 9 per cent to US$284 in extended trade. "It was an ugly quarter," Plaza said.