There are two ways to look at the recent price action in Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) stock. Amazon stock has bounced over 10% in the last few sessions, but that followed a 28% plunge in the stock from its early September highs above $2,000 to a six-month low below $1,500.
From one standpoint, the sell-off seems like a badly needed correction from a market that had lost its sense. And after the bounce, the AMZN stock price could — and maybe even should — have further to fall. With AMZN stock still at 62x next year’s consensus earnings estimates, it still looks overvalued.
But I’ve long argued that investors can’t just focus on the P/E multiple assigned to Amazon stock and call it overvalued. Without exaggeration, this is one of the best growth stories of all time (and perhaps the best). Amazon’s opportunity continues to get larger. And while the sell-off in Amazon stock probably was overdue, it also provides yet another opportunity to participate in the long-term story here.
The AMZN Stock Price Plunges
The AMZN stock price has struggled since the market first assigned the company a $1 trillion valuation back in early September. Heading into those highs, even I questioned how much further the stock had to go.
But I admittedly didn’t see the correction coming so quickly nor did I see it cutting so deeply. A nervous market sold off Amazon stock and then disappointing Q3 revenue and Q4 guidance dropped the stock another 8%.
All that said, it’s important not to overreact here. As impressive as the long-term chart of AMZN is, there have been some stumbles along the way. Amazon stock lost a quarter of its value in the last two months of 2011. The stock sold off for most of 2014, again falling about 25% in the first ten months of that year. In the market-wide correction of early 2016, the AMZN stock price dropped almost 30%.
We’ve seen these corrections before. Historically, they’ve provided buying opportunities. That’s not a guarantee that this time, too, AMZN will rebound. Past performance does not guarantee future results, after all. Still, history suggests Amazon stock will bounce back, and so do the numbers.
AMZN Earnings Were Strong
Amazon stock already has recaptured its post-earnings losses, which makes some sense. News in the quarter was mixed at worst, and as noted, the stock already had sold off before the report.
Even in a “disappointing” quarter, revenue still rose 29% year-over-year, an astounding growth rate. Amazon Web Services revenue jumped another 46% year-over-year. Growth rates from rivals Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) suggest some share gains, but AWS remains the dominant provider in a profitable and fast-growing industry.
Amazon Business is at a $10 billion annual run rate in terms of revenue. A new line of Echo products should add to the reach of Alexa, which seems to be outperforming Google Assistant and Siri, from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). And no one is really threatening the core consumer retail e-commerce business here.
Q4 guidance does look disappointing. A guided range of 10-20% year-over-year growth came in below expectations and suggests a surprising amount of uncertainty toward the key holiday quarter. But, as management explained on the Q3 call, Amazon is lapping the Whole Foods acquisition, and has a comparison against a very strong quarter from a year ago. With so much of the company’s sales coming toward the end of the quarter, the wide range of guidance makes some sense as well.
All told, this isn’t a quarter that changes the long-term outlook for Amazon as a business. Nor is it a report that supports a nearly 30% reduction in the AMZN stock price, even when you consider that the stock might have run too far this summer.
Amazon Stock Still Looks Like a Buy
AMZN isn’t cheap, but it shouldn’t be. And while headline P/E multiples suggest Amazon stock could fall further, a closer look shows that Amazon can easily grow into its current valuation.
Notably, in terms of free cash flow, AMZN’s valuation is more reasonable. Amazon stock now trades at 51x trailing twelve-month free cash flow after more than 100% growth in that figure over the past year.
And while Q3 revenue numbers disappointed, earnings beat handily. And that shows that Amazon’s narrow margins are starting to show some expansion after being pressured by years of investment. Operating income rose more than 10x year-over-year in Q3; it has more than quadrupled year-to-date.
Yet, so far this year, margins remain in the 5% range. Continued leveraging of operating expenses and/or moderating investment spend can add a couple of hundred basis points to that figure. Add in revenue growth, and there’s a clear path for Amazon earnings and cash flow to double, or come close to doubling, in a matter of years.
With some patience, then, an investor can own AMZN at a sub-30x multiple to free cash flow. For one of the world’s great growth stories, that’s a very attractive offer. And it’s why, like so many sell-offs in the past, the plunge in AMZN is a buying opportunity.
As of this writing, Vince Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.