Amazon power. We had a feeling the company would blow through all guidance Jeff Bezos had provided three months ago, but figured he knew his company better than anyone. Turns out we were all pleasantly surprised.
Amazon (AMZN: $1,871, flat early this week but then soaring to $2,050 and $2,100 overnight) is once again a trillion-dollar company, with good reason. Revenue came in better than we expected: $87 billion, above the high end of guidance . . . but Bezos managed to squeeze a full $6.47 profit per share out of that massive sales base, a lot more than anyone even dared hope to see. There's no year-over-year decline here at all, despite all the caution the company's own outlook inspired. Instead, even in a "difficult" quarter, earnings are still up 7% over last year.
The growth story for Amazon is alive and well. Costs are climbing. One-day shipping alone will boost expenses $1 billion in the current quarter and buying new servers and producing new streaming video shows will take a bigger bite than ever out of the margins. But revenue is tracking right where we wanted it to be (19% growth is alive and well), while there's room in the outlook for profit to keep expanding year over year. And as we know now, Bezos would rather aim low than overpromise.
That's really all it takes to keep investors looking toward the long win. This is a revenue year for Amazon as Bezos invests in the delivery platform (especially on groceries) and prepares the way for the company's next leap forward. Then in 2021 we're looking for efficiencies of scale to come back in a huge way, bringing bottom-line growth to justify what's currently a 70X multiple. Is a year too long to wait for gratification? A trillion dollars now rides on the answer and our $2,200 Target may need to be revised soon. Maybe even next week.
Visa (V: $208, up 2% this week but then giving that gain away overnight) also gave us the fundamentals we needed to see to keep its rally alive. While the stock retreated from the numbers, it really only took a day's gain away from what was previously an 11% YTD surge . . . the best performance in the Stocks For Success and ready for a rest. Some say $6.05 billion in revenue was a little light. From where we stand, the company remains right on track, despite acquisitions, and the cost of expanding credit card networks across the world. Of course we wouldn't sell Visa. Let's see how long it takes the stock to clear our new $230 Target, up from $200.
Then there's Eli Lilly (LLY: $143, up 3%), where sales hit a two-year record of $6.1 billion, $100 million more than we expected despite soft global drug prices. Earnings per share hit $1.73, substantially above our $1.52 target, and management is confident that this will be the year new products (especially in diabetes) finally fill the hole the expiration of Cialis patent protection has left behind.
As far as we're concerned, this is the Big Pharma to watch. We're raising our Target from $143 to $170 and as of now we would not sell Eli Lilly. The company is simply doing too well to even contemplate letting it go.
And while we're here, we need to raise our sights on the two largest companies around. Apple (AAPL: $324, up 2%) is now on a trajectory to $375. Microsoft (MSFT: $173, up 5%) can hit $200. We wouldn't sell either.