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Amazon.com Inc plans to deliver packages to members of its loyalty club Prime in just one day, instead of two days, part of a spending ramp-up that might curb future profits after a blockbuster first quarter.
Shares rose as much as 2% in after-hours trade on Thursday on the faster shipping announcement for customers around the globe and as Amazon’s first-quarter profit trounced estimates thanks to soaring demand for its cloud and ad services. Amazon will spend $800 million in the second quarter on the goal.
The announcement adds pressure to rivals Walmart Inc and others already racing to keep pace with the speed and benefits of Amazon’s Prime program. Amazon’s first-quarter net income more than doubled to $3.6 billion, while analysts were only expecting $2.4 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Second-quarter operating income will be as much as $3.6 billion, but analysts had been expecting $4.2 billion, according to FactSet. Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said Amazon was still reaping rewards from prior years of hiring and investments in warehouses and other infrastructure.
“We’re banking the efficiencies of prior investments, continued into Q1,” he said on a call with reporters. “There’ll be times when we have to invest ahead to build out warehouse capacity, but right now we are on a nice path where we are getting the most out of the capacity we have.”
Olsavsky also said earlier that the company would spend more later this year to roll out more benefits to international Prime members.
Investments mean lower profits
The news marks a familiar refrain for the world’s largest online retailer. For years, Amazon has made expensive bets on new technology and programs, like its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market in 2017 to become a player in the U.S. grocery business.
Amazon’s investments had long meant lower profit. However, its steady, often successful marches into new industries have been lucrative to shareholders, including its founder Jeff Bezos, who had become the richest man in the world.
The luster of these bets still shined brightly on Thursday. The company’s loyal customer base has drawn merchants to sell and increasingly advertise through its site in exchange for fees, helping Amazon transform from a largely low-margin retail business to a more and more lucrative marketplace.
Revenue from seller services jumped 20% to $11.1 billion in the first quarter, while ad and other sales surged 34% to $2.7 billion, the company said.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s cloud unit kept growing as more enterprises moved data and computing operations to the technology company’s servers. Sales for Amazon Web Services (AWS) rose 41% to $7.7 billion in the first quarter.
More hiring, spending to come
Some analysts noted that these growth figures, while impressive, were lower than what Amazon had posted in prior quarters.
“Amazon delivered slower growth in all key segments,“ (AWS, advertising and e-commerce) “but margins skyrocketed, seemingly driven by less aggressive investment,” said Atlantic Equities analyst James Cordwell.
Amazon suggested that spending indeed was on the way, and with that smaller growth in profit.
‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel
The company has been building warehouses around the world to ensure its edge in delivering goods to customers the fastest. It is spending more on video, from live sports to a planned prequel series to “The Lord of the Rings,” to draw more people to log on to its website, watch, and while they are there, buy socks. Hiring will pick up from the 12 percent increase Amazon posted in the past 12 months, Olsavsky said.
And the company is delving into even less familiar terrain.
It recently announced investments in self-driving and electric car companies, teasing how it thinks these high-tech, capital-intensive businesses could pay dividends potentially in the form of autonomous deliveries in the long run. Amazon has not described in detail its thinking behind the bets.
In China, where the company had long struggled to compete with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Amazon said this month it would close warehouses and its domestic marketplace in July. There were silver linings for investors, however. Amazon’s Olsavsky said the company saw no material impact in India from actions the company took to comply with new regulations there affecting foreign investment in the e-commerce sector, something Amazon had voiced concern about in the past.
Prime signups on rise in India
Prime member signups in India, one of Amazon’s most important growth markets, continue to be rising the fastest in the company’s history.
Bezos, who many regard as a management guru, also settled his closely watched divorce such that he will retain full voting control of his family’s stock, sparing Amazon a boardroom battle. However, his fortune, which has been the largest of any married couple in the world, will be divided.
The company forecast net sales of between $59.5 billion and $63.5 billion for the second quarter, the midpoint of which was below analysts’ average estimate of $62.37 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. (VOA)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)