The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has asked a federal court to force Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) to sell off some of its assets. The government agency says Amazon has cornered the e-commerce market, at least as far as third-party retailers go. One retailer said, according to Reuters, “We have nowhere else to go and Amazon knows it.” An Amazon breakup would not be the first time America’s largest companies faced such an action.
Big companies have been broken up in the past. Most recently, AT&T in 1982. In 2000, the same thing nearly happened to Microsoft. Amazon could be the next company to which this happens.
Amazon in Pieces
One of Amazon’s two major divisions feeds the other financially. The separation of these would be logical. The first is the massive e-commerce operation. In the most recent quarter, Amazon’s North American and international e-commerce operations had a combined revenue of $112 billion and an operating income of $2.2 billion. For years, it has taken market share from America’s retailers, both their online and brick-and-mortar operations. However, its margins remain tiny. (These are 17 awful investments by Amazon.)
Amazon Web Services is arguably Amazon’s most successful business. The largest cloud computing operation in the world, it primarily competes with Microsoft and Google. It is growing rapidly. Its revenue in the most recent quarter rose 12% to $21.4 billion. Its operating income was $5.14 billion.
The subsequent division would happen within e-commerce. Amazon Prime Video competes with Netflix, Disney, Hulu and other streaming services. Prime Video has over 200 million subscribers. That makes it slightly smaller than Netflix but larger than the others. However, Amazon does not break out its revenue. The service is part of Amazon Prime, which is intended to build Amazon’s e-commerce business. The spin-off of video would further weaken Amazon’s dominant position in the e-commerce market.
The final part of Amazon to divvy up is its cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities hoard. The total of these is about $50 billion. Yet, there is no simple calculator for distributing this among the new companies.
In an Amazon breakup, each shareholder would get shares in the three new companies. This would allow them to pick which of the three are the winners.
Originally published at 24/7 Wall St.
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