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Amazon 1st-quarter net income jumps

NEW YORK--Amazon's first-quarter profit rose 18 percent as shoppers continued to flock to the online mega retailer to buy goods.

Still, the company forecasts an operating loss for the second quarter as it continues to invest heavily both internationally and at home.

Amazon has long focused on spending the money it makes to grow its business and expand into new areas, from movie streaming to e-readers and even grocery delivery. On Wednesday, it launched Prime Pantry, a grocery delivery service for Prime members and earlier this month, it introduced its first set-top video streaming box called Amazon Fire that sells for US$99. Rumors of an Amazon phone have been swirling as well, but nothing has materialized.

“We get our energy from inventing on behalf of customers, and 2014 is off to a kinetic start,” said chief executive Jeff Bezos.

While investors have largely given Amazon a pass for focusing on growth and investing rather than turning a strong profit, Amazon has been making some moves lately to strengthen its bottom line. It boosted its Prime 2-day shipping membership program annual fee from US$79 to US$99 in March to offset higher shipping costs.

Shipping costs rose 31 percent to US$1.83 billion during the quarter.

And to entice more people to sign up for the service at the US$99 price, which includes its streaming video service, on Tuesday the retailer said it inked a deal with HBO to stream some of its older shows online beginning May 21. The news was a coup for Amazon. HBO has steadfastly refused to license any of its programming to other streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu. In a media call, executives did not give specifics but said renewals were exceeding expectations.

Net income for the quarter rose to US$108 million, or 23 cents per share. That compares with net income of US$82 million, or 18 cents per share last year. Analysts expected 21 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 23 percent to US$19.74 billion from US$16.07 billion. Analysts expected US$19.42 billion.

In fiscal 2014, the company expects revenue of US$18.1 billion to US$19.8 billion. Analysts expect US$19.01 billion. It expects an operating loss between US$455 million and US$55 million in the second quarter compared with operating income of US$79 million last year.

In a call with investors, Tom Szkutak, Amazon's chief financial officer, said the predicted loss is due to investing “heavily” in its international operations as well as other areas of its business, including the content it provides.

In aftermarket trading, Amazon shares rose 35 cents to US$337.50, after closing the day up nearly 4 percent at US$337.15. The stock reached an all-time high of US$408.06 on Jan. 22. Since then, it has dropped 17 percent.

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