Amazon advertised its ad revenues for the first time in its Thursday earnings report, the previously hidden numbers showing they grew 32 per cent in the fourth quarter to $9.72bn, giving $31bn for the year.
It must have rubbed salt into advertising-dependent Meta’s wounds that the ecommerce giant was doing better with its side hustle. Like Google, it was less affected by Apple’s recent privacy changes, in contrast with Facebook, which said it had lost roughly $10bn in revenue as a result.
Amazon continues to power ahead with its cloud business, with 40 per cent growth year-on-year for the quarter to $17.8bn. Wedbush analysts say that makes it a roughly $71bn annualised run rate business, up from around $51bn a year ago. However, Microsoft’s Azure business grew 46 per cent in the quarter and the Synergy Research Group says it is looming larger in Amazon’s rear-view mirror.
The main headlines for the ecommerce business were a 17 per cent rise in the US Prime subscription fee and higher costs driven by labour supply shortages and inflationary pressures. Amazon shares are up nearly 15 per cent today, reinforcing Lex’s view that the company stands out as a winner in a tricky period for markets this earnings season.
Our Unhedged newsletter has been looking at whether there is reason for markets to panic (Spoiler: no) over a mixed bag of results — from poor showings leading to share hammerings for Meta, Netflix, PayPal and Spotify to strong results from Alphabet, Amazon, AMD, Apple, Microsoft and Qualcomm.
In an analysis of the season, Richard Waters says the whiplash at Snap this week has been emblematic of the wider hopes and fears that have ripped through the tech sector. Shares in the social media platform plunged 23 per cent on Thursday as investors fretted that Meta’s weak revenue forecast would spill over into the wider digital advertising sector. They then rebounded 60 per cent in after-hours trading when the worries turned out to be unfounded.
Such is the current volatility in tech stocks, which was sparked by the prospect of rising interest rates and a slowdown in digital demand after the spike caused by the pandemic. Add to that the continuing supply chain problems, labour shortages and inflation effects highlighted in the earnings reports and tech is not “out of the woods yet”, according to Jefferies analyst Brent Thill.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. AI is here now, metaverse comes later
TikTok’s core engagement algorithm, which works to maximise the time people spend watching its catchy short videos, has been touted as the most effective consumer use of AI. Google’s advertising revenue surged ahead unexpectedly in the latest quarter thanks to applied AI. Richard Waters says AI is now supercharging digital services.
2. Toshiba reconsiders split
Toshiba is reconsidering a plan to split itself into three companies, as investors continue to push the Japanese industrial conglomerate towards resuming buyout talks with private equity firms. Lex has been looking at the strengths and weaknesses of its chips business.
3. News Corp suffers Chinese hack
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is investigating a cyber attack that it suspects was linked to China and accessed journalists’ emails and documents. The company said hackers accessed documents from News Corp headquarters, Dow Jones, News UK and the New York Post.
4. EU has its chips
The EU’s long-anticipated Chips Act — spelling out extra funding and potential state-aid exemptions aimed at boosting innovation and production in semiconductors — is hitting some internal bumps, reports our Europe Express newsletter.
5. VC’s new race for Europe
The continent has long had many of the ingredients that tech clusters need: strong universities, lots of engineers, access to a rich consumer market. But Europe has been held back, supposedly, by cultural factors: a lack of appetite for risk and an alleged commercial timidity. The Weekend Essay looks at a new role being played by American venture capitalists, where people will take a risk if VCs underwrite it.
Tech tools — B&O connects past and present
My best present (to myself) this past Christmas was a 1976 Akai 4000DB reel-to-reel tape recorder (pictured below), bought for £250 on eBay. It’s fully functioning in all its analogue, mechanical glory and has allowed me to digitise and listen back to programmes I made when I worked at the BBC, but have not heard for up to 40 years.
Bang & Olufsen pioneered multiroom audio 40 years ago and an update to its Beolink Multiroom software now allows products from the 80s, such as turntables, to connect to its latest wireless speakers and today’s streaming services. As Trusted Reviews reports, you can now listen to a record on the Beogram 5500 turntable (launched in 1986) and wirelessly stream it to the latest Beosound Level speaker, or pair the Beosound 9000 CD player with the Beolab 28 speakers to connect B&O products old and new.