Apple, Amazon Results Spark Fears of Unhappy Holiday Season
(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. reported disappointing quarterly results in a sign that the global supply-chain crisis is hobbling even the mightiest companies, erasing tens of billions of dollars from their market valuations.
Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce company, said its entire fourth quarter profit could be wiped out because of a surge in the cost of labor and fulfillment. Apple, meanwhile, said it lost $6 billion in sales because it can’t meet demand for its products, and could lose more next quarter.
But added together, the tech giants delivered a clear message to investors: This holiday season is going to be difficult. As the economy emerges from the worst pandemic in a century, getting enough products to consumers is a daunting challenge for nearly everyone.
“It’s going to be a rough holiday season for sure,” said Tuna Amobi, an analyst at CFRA Research. “Expectations are going to come down, across the board.”
In its latest quarter, Apple reported lower revenue than projected, sending its shares down as much 4% to $146.41 in New York trading Friday.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told investors that sales would have been $6 billion higher without supply constraints -- most notably, a lack of semiconductors.
The shortage is affecting “most of our products,” he said on a conference call. “Demand is very robust.”
The company has a slew of new devices that it needs to get into consumers’ hands before the holidays, a period that’s expected to set sales records. In addition to the iPhone upgrade, Apple has rolled out new watches, iPads, Mac computers and other items.
Supply-chain constraints will make many of those items harder to get. Cook expects the problem to eclipse the $6 billion toll it took last quarter.
The Cupertino, California-based company didn’t provide formal guidance for the current quarter, but analysts have projected revenue of about $120 billion. Apple did say that all of its devices, except the iPad, would have year-over-year sales growth in the quarter. Supply challenges will be too much for the iPad to see an increase, Cook said.
At Amazon, preparing for the holidays will be a costly endeavor. The company warned Wall Street that it will have to spend billions of dollars hiring workers, paying them more and even speeding partly empty trucks to their destinations -- all to ensure that supply-chain snarls don’t derail the holiday shopping season.
The massive outlays could wipe out Amazon’s profit during the last three months of the year, executives said. The company also reported third-quarter revenue and earnings that fell short of projections. The shares declined as much as 5% to $3,273.32 on Friday.
Revenue will be $130 billion to $140 billion in the period ending in December, the Seattle company said, a lower forecast than analysts were expected. Operating income could be as low as zero, Amazon said, a setback for a company that’s reaped billions of dollars in profit each quarter going back to early 2018.
The results reflected the first period under new CEO Andy Jassy, who took the helm from Jeff Bezos in July. Amazon shares had gained 5.8% this year, underperforming the broader market, as consumers who turned to online ordering in record numbers during the pandemic began to resume in-person shopping, eating out and traveling.
Amazon had signaled that slower sales growth -- and high spending in areas such as wages and new warehouses -- would persist through the end of the year.
Investors had been hoping that conditions would have improved since Amazon’s relatively gloomy outlook in July, said John Tomlinson, director of research with M Science.
“People were hoping that this quarter was the bottom,” Tomlinson said, referring to the period ended Sept. 30. “It doesn’t seem that’s the case. Some of the challenges they laid out didn’t seem to get worse, but they didn’t get much better, either.”
But the company has a secret weapon in Amazon Web Services, the cloud-computing unit that brings in most of its profit. The business posted sales of $16.1 billion, up 39%. That was the division’s fastest growth rate since early 2019.
Apple’s problems were more predictable, said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. People want specific products, and Apple can’t make them quickly enough to meet demand, he said.
Amazon’s difficulties, on the other hand, highlight how many factors are conspiring to drive up costs, Pachter said.
“There’s just a lot of weird stuff going on,” he said. “We haven’t seen inflation like this in 40 years, and it’s all due to tight supplies, Covid-related surcharges and rising labor costs.”
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