Amazon shares surge 17% in after-hours trading as it raises US Prime fees

The company's stock price rose after dropping about 8% before the market's close

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Amazon on Thursday said it was raising the price of its Prime subscriptions, as it looks to offset higher shipping costs and wages even after beating profit expectations for the holiday quarter.

Shares rose 17 per cent in after-hours trading, after dropping about 8 per cent before the market's close as part of a broader technology stock sell-off.

If shares rise on Friday by that much, it would be the stock's biggest percentage gain since October 2009.

For the holiday quarter, Amazon earned $14.3 billion, double its net income from a year earlier. That included a pre-tax gain of $11.8bn from its stake in electric carmaker Rivian Automotive.

On the heels of a windfall from greater at-home shopping in the pandemic, Amazon has poured money into its operations to manage disruptions, most recently the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

It has marketed signing bonuses to attract hundreds of thousands of workers in a tight labour market and it has paid more for shipping because it could not get products into the right warehouses.

Now, it is raising the US monthly fee of Prime, its fast-shipping and media subscription, to $14.99 from $12.99, with annual membership increasing to $139 from $119. The change is effective from February 18 for new members, it said.

US subscribers' annual fees last went up four years ago to $119 from $99, and they went up four years prior from $79.

With more than 200 million members globally, Prime is an incentive to consumers to direct more of their shopping to Amazon so they can make the most of their subscriptions. Such fees for the fourth quarter alone grew 15 per cent to $8.1 bn.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) was a bright spot for Amazon, too. The cloud computing division has booked more sales with demand rising for gaming and remote work. It increased revenue 40 per cent to $17.8bn, ahead of estimates of more than $17.3bn.

The unit even won a key customer, announcing on Thursday an expanded partnership with retailer Best Buy.

AWS has long sought rivals as its marquee clients, such as Netflix, to show it is a trustworthy partner and not scooping up competitors' data. Microsoft and Alphabet's Google recently forecast a positive outlook for results for their cloud businesses as well.

Still, Amazon forecast first-quarter sales below Wall Street estimates, projecting between $112bn and $117bn, or to grow between 3 per cent and 8 per cent.

Analysts were expecting $120.04bn, IBES data from Refinitiv show.

Updated: February 04, 2022, 3:59 AM