Why cash flow, not profits, determines shareholder returns

From Mike Moritz, describing Amazon:

It isn’t too much of an exaggeration to say that Amazon’s entire business has been financed by vendors and customers: book-sellers who collect their invoices slowly; consumers who stump up money for Amazon Prime in advance of receiving deliveries; or companies that pay in advance for guaranteed capacity on AWS. In Los Angeles customers who pay $220 up front for Amazon Fresh, the company’s home delivery grocery service, get ‘free’ shipping on orders above $35. It might be ‘free’ but Amazon has their cash. Customers and vendors have helped Amazon build its 90 fulfillment centers, which now enclose about 65 million square feet. That should be enough to make the managements of FedEx and UPS tremble. Since inception Amazon has generated $20.2 billion from operations almost half of which ($8.6 B), has been used for capital expenditures such as new distribution centers, which improve life for the customer. In the past ten years the share base has only increased by just over 10% while the company has grown twelve-fold. For shareholders it doesn’t get better than that.

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