Amazon.com 10-K 2009
Documents found in this filing:
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2008
For the transition period from to .
Commission File No. 000-22513
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
1200 12th Avenue South, Suite 1200
Seattle, Washington 98144-2734
(Address and telephone number, including area code, of registrants principal executive offices)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act. Yes ¨ No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrants knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, or a non-accelerated filer. See definition of accelerated filer and large accelerated filer in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer x Accelerated filer ¨ Non-accelerated filer ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ¨ No x
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
The information required by Part III of this Report, to the extent not set forth herein, is incorporated herein by reference from the registrants definitive proxy statement relating to the Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held in 2009, which definitive proxy statement shall be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year to which this Report relates.
For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2008
Item 1. Business
This Annual Report on Form 10-K and the documents incorporated herein by reference contain forward-looking statements based on expectations, estimates, and projections as of the date of this filing. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed in forward-looking statements. See Item 1A of Part IRisk Factors.
Amazon.com, Inc. was incorporated in 1994 in the state of Washington and reincorporated in 1996 in the state of Delaware. Our principal corporate offices are located in Seattle, Washington. We completed our initial public offering in May 1997 and our common stock is listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol AMZN.
As used herein, Amazon.com, we, our and similar terms include Amazon.com, Inc. and its subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise.
Amazon.com opened its virtual doors on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and we offer Earths Biggest Selection. We seek to be Earths most customer-centric company for three primary customer sets: consumer customers, seller customers and developer customers. In addition, we generate revenue through co-branded credit card agreements and other marketing and promotional services, such as online advertising.
We have organized our operations into two principal segments: North America and International. See Item 8 of Part II, Financial Statements and Supplementary DataNote 13Segment Information. See Item 7 of Part II, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of OperationsResults of OperationsSupplemental Information for supplemental information about our net sales.
We serve our consumer customers through our retail websites and focus on selection, price, and convenience. We design our websites to enable millions of unique products to be sold by us and by third parties across dozens of product categories. We strive to offer our customers the lowest prices possible through low everyday product pricing and free shipping offers, including Amazon Prime, and to improve our operating efficiencies so that we can continue to lower prices for our customers. We also provide easy-to-use functionality, fast and reliable fulfillment through our global fulfillment center network, timely customer service, and a trusted transaction environment.
We fulfill customer orders in a number of ways, including through the U.S. and international fulfillment centers and warehouses that we operate and through co-sourced and outsourced arrangements in certain countries. We operate customer service centers globally, which are supplemented by co-sourced arrangements. See Item 2 of Part I, Properties.
We offer programs that enable seller customers to sell their products on our websites and their own branded websites and to fulfill orders through us. We are not the seller of record in these transactions, but instead earn fixed fees, revenue share fees, per-unit activity fees, or some combination thereof.
We serve developer customers through Amazon Web Services, which provides access to technology infrastructure that developers can use to enable virtually any type of business.
Our businesses are rapidly evolving and intensely competitive. Our current and potential competitors include: (1) physical-world retailers, publishers, vendors, distributors, manufacturers and producers of our products; (2) other online e-commerce and mobile e-commerce sites, including sites that sell or distribute digital content; (3) a number of indirect competitors, including media companies, Web portals, comparison shopping websites, and Web search engines, either directly or in collaboration with other retailers; (4) companies that provide e-commerce services, including website development, fulfillment and customer service; (5) companies that provide infrastructure web services or other information storage or computing services or products; and (6) companies that design, manufacture, market or sell digital media devices. We believe that the principal competitive factors in our retail businesses include selection, price, and convenience, including fast and reliable fulfillment. Additional competitive factors for our seller and developer services include the quality, speed, and reliability of our services and tools. Many of our current and potential competitors have greater resources, longer histories, more customers, and greater brand recognition. They may secure better terms from vendors, adopt more aggressive pricing and devote more resources to technology, fulfillment, and marketing. Other companies also may enter into business combinations or alliances that strengthen their competitive positions.
We regard our trademarks, service marks, copyrights, patents, domain names, trade dress, trade secrets, proprietary technologies, and similar intellectual property as critical to our success, and we rely on trademark, copyright and patent law, trade-secret protection, and confidentiality and/or license agreements with our employees, customers, partners, and others to protect our proprietary rights. We have registered, or applied for the registration of, a number of domain names, trademarks, service marks, patents, and copyrights by U.S. and foreign governmental authorities. Additionally, we have filed U.S. and international patent applications covering certain of our proprietary technology. We have licensed in the past, and expect that we may license in the future, certain of our proprietary rights to third parties.
Our business is affected by seasonality, which historically has resulted in higher sales volume during our fourth quarter, which ends December 31. We recognized 35%, 38%, and 37% of our annual revenue during the fourth quarter of 2008, 2007, and 2006.
We employed approximately 20,700 full-time and part-time employees at December 31, 2008. However, employment levels fluctuate due to seasonal factors affecting our business. Additionally, we utilize independent contractors and temporary personnel to supplement our workforce, particularly on a seasonal basis. Our employees are not represented by a labor union and we consider our employee relations to be good. Competition for qualified personnel in our industry has historically been intense, particularly for software engineers, computer scientists, and other technical staff.
Our investor relations website is www.amazon.com/ir. We make available on this website under Financial Documents, free of charge, our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file or furnish such materials to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). We also make available on this website under the heading Corporate Governance our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.
Executive Officers and Directors
The following tables set forth certain information regarding our Executive Officers and Directors as of January 27, 2009:
Jeffrey P. Bezos. Mr. Bezos has been Chairman of the Board of Amazon.com since founding it in 1994 and Chief Executive Officer since May 1996. Mr. Bezos served as President of the Company from founding until June 1999 and again from October 2000 to the present.
Jeffrey M. Blackburn. Mr. Blackburn has served as Senior Vice President, Business Development, since April 2006. From June 2004 to April 2006, he was Vice President, Business Development, and from July 2003 to June 2004, he was Vice President, European Customer Service.
Sebastian J. Gunningham. Mr. Gunningham has served as Senior Vice President, Seller Services, since joining Amazon.com in March 2007. Prior to joining Amazon.com, Mr. Gunningham was President of First Data Utilities from August 2006 to February 2007, following First Datas acquisition of Peace Software, Inc., where he was Chief Executive Officer from February 2004 to August 2006. From March 2003 to February 2004, he served as Vice President of Enterprise Sales at Apple, Inc.
Andrew R. Jassy. Mr. Jassy has served as Senior Vice President, Web Services, since April 2006. From January 2005 to April 2006, he was Vice President, Web Services, and from August 2003 to January 2005, he was Vice President, Associates and Web Services.
Steven Kessel. Mr. Kessel has served as Senior Vice President, Worldwide Digital Media, since April 2006. From April 2004 to April 2006, he was Vice President, Digital, and from July 2002 to April 2004, he was Vice President, U.S. Books, Music, Video and DVD.
Marc A. Onetto. Mr. Onetto has served as Senior Vice President, Worldwide Operations, since joining Amazon.com in December 2006. Prior to joining Amazon.com, Mr. Onetto was Executive Vice President, Worldwide Operations, at Solectron Corporation, an electronics manufacturing and technology company, from June 2003 to June 2006.
Diego Piacentini. Mr. Piacentini has served as Senior Vice President, International Retail, since January 2007. From November 2001 until December 2006, Mr. Piacentini served as Senior Vice President, Worldwide Retail and Marketing.
Shelley L. Reynolds. Ms. Reynolds has served as Vice President, Worldwide Controller, and Principal Accounting Officer since April 2007. From February 2006 to April 2007, she was Vice President, Finance and Controller. Prior to joining Amazon.com, Ms. Reynolds was a partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP since 1998.
Thomas J. Szkutak. Mr. Szkutak has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer since joining Amazon.com in October 2002.
H. Brian Valentine. Mr. Valentine has served as Senior Vice President, Ecommerce Platform, since joining Amazon.com in September 2006. Prior to joining Amazon.com, Mr. Valentine held various positions with Microsoft Corporation, including Senior Vice President, Windows Core Operating System Division, from January 2004 to September 2006 and Senior Vice President, Windows, from December 1999 to January 2004.
Jeffrey A. Wilke. Mr. Wilke has served as Senior Vice President, North America Retail, since January 2007. From January 2002 until December 2006, he was Senior Vice President, Worldwide Operations.
L. Michelle Wilson. Ms. Wilson has served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary since July 2003.
Board of Directors
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Please carefully consider the following risk factors. If any of the following risks occur, our business, financial condition, operating results, and cash flows could be materially adversely affected. In addition, the current global economic climate amplifies many of these risks.
We Face Intense Competition
Our businesses are rapidly evolving and intensely competitive, and we have many competitors in different industries, including retail, e-commerce services, digital and web services. Many of our current and potential competitors have greater resources, longer histories, more customers, and greater brand recognition. They may secure better terms from vendors, adopt more aggressive pricing and devote more resources to technology, fulfillment, and marketing.
Competition may intensify as our competitors enter into business combinations or alliances and established companies in other market segments expand into our market segments. In addition, new and enhanced technologies, including search, web services, and digital, may increase our competition. The Internet facilitates competitive entry and comparison shopping and renders e-commerce inherently more competitive than other retail. Increased competition may reduce our sales and profits.
Our Expansion Places a Significant Strain on our Management, Operational, Financial and Other Resources
We are rapidly and significantly expanding our global operations, including increasing our product and service offerings and scaling our infrastructure to support our retail and services businesses. This expansion increases the complexity of our business and places significant strain on our management, personnel, operations, systems, technical performance, financial resources, and internal financial control and reporting functions. We may not be able to manage growth effectively, which could damage our reputation, limit our growth and negatively affect our operating results.
Our Expansion into New Products, Services, Technologies and Geographic Regions Subjects Us to Additional Business, Legal, Financial and Competitive Risks
We may have limited or no experience in our newer market segments, and our customers may not adopt our new product or service offerings, which include seller services, digital, web services and electronic devices. These offerings may present new and difficult technology challenges, and we may be subject to claims if customers of these offerings experience service disruptions or failures or other quality issues. In addition, our gross profits in our newer activities may be lower than in our older activities, and we may not be successful enough in these newer activities to recoup our investments in them. If any of this were to occur, it could damage our reputation, limit our growth and negatively affect our operating results.
We May Experience Significant Fluctuations in Our Operating Results and Growth Rate
We may not be able to accurately forecast our growth rate. We base our expense levels and investment plans on sales estimates. A significant portion of our expenses and investments is fixed, and we may not be able to adjust our spending quickly enough if our sales are less than expected.
Our revenue growth may not be sustainable, and our percentage growth rates may decrease. Our revenue and operating profit growth depends on the continued growth of demand for the products and services offered by us or our sellers, and our business is affected by general economic and business conditions worldwide. A softening of demand, whether caused by changes in customer preferences or a weakening of the U.S. or global economies, may result in decreased revenue or growth.
Our net sales and operating results will also fluctuate for many other reasons, including due to risks described elsewhere in this section and the following:
We May Not Be Successful in Our Efforts to Expand into International Market Segments
Our international activities are significant to our revenues and profits, and we plan to further expand internationally. We have relatively little experience operating in these or future market segments and may not benefit from any first-to-market advantages or otherwise succeed. It is costly to establish, develop and maintain international operations and websites and promote our brand internationally. Our international operations may not be profitable on a sustained basis.
In addition to risks described elsewhere in this section, our international sales and operations are subject to a number of risks, including:
As the international e-commerce channel grows, competition will intensify. Local companies may have a substantial competitive advantage because of their greater understanding of, and focus on, the local customer, as well as their more established local brand names. We may not be able to hire, train, retain, and manage required personnel, which may limit our international growth.
In 2004, we acquired Joyo.com Limited, which is organized under the laws of the British Virgin Islands and through a Peoples Republic of China (PRC) entity, provides technology and services for the Joyo Amazon websites. The PRC regulates Joyo Amazons business through regulations and license requirements restricting (i) foreign investment in the Internet, retail and delivery sectors, (ii) Internet content and (iii) the sale of media and other products. In order to meet local ownership and regulatory licensing requirements, Joyo Amazons business is operated by PRC companies owned by nominee shareholders who are PRC nationals. Although we believe Joyo Amazons structure complies with existing PRC laws, it involves unique risks. There are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation of PRC laws and regulations, and it is possible that the PRC government will ultimately take a view contrary to ours. If Joyo Amazon (including its subsidiary and affiliates) were found to be in violation of any existing or future PRC laws or regulations or if interpretations of those laws and regulations were to change, the business could be subject to fines and other financial penalties, have its licenses revoked or be forced to shut down entirely. In addition, if Joyo Amazon were unable to enforce its contractual relationships with respect to management and control of its business, it might be unable to continue to operate the business.
If We Do Not Successfully Optimize and Operate Our Fulfillment Centers, Our Business Could Be Harmed
If we do not adequately predict customer demand or otherwise optimize and operate our fulfillment centers successfully, it could result in excess or insufficient inventory or fulfillment capacity, result in increased costs, impairment charges, or both, or harm our business in other ways. A failure to optimize inventory will increase our net shipping cost by requiring long-zone or partial shipments. Orders from several of our websites are fulfilled primarily from a single location, and we have only a limited ability to reroute orders to third parties for drop-shipping. We and our co-sourcers may be unable to adequately staff our fulfillment and customer service centers. As we continue to add fulfillment and warehouse capability or add new businesses with different fulfillment requirements, our fulfillment network becomes increasingly complex and operating it becomes more challenging. If the other businesses on whose behalf we perform inventory fulfillment services deliver product to our fulfillment centers in excess of forecasts, we may be unable to secure sufficient storage space and may be unable to optimize our fulfillment centers. There can be no assurance that we will be able to operate our network effectively.
We rely on a limited number of shipping companies to deliver inventory to us and completed orders to our customers. If we are not able to negotiate acceptable terms with these companies or they experience performance problems or other difficulties, it could negatively impact our operating results and customer experience. In addition, our ability to receive inbound inventory efficiently and ship completed orders to customers also may be negatively affected by inclement weather, fire, flood, power loss, earthquakes, labor disputes, acts of war or terrorism, acts of God and similar factors.
Third parties either drop-ship or otherwise fulfill an increasing portion of our customers orders, and we are increasingly reliant on the reliability, quality and future procurement of their services. Under some of our commercial agreements, we maintain the inventory of other companies, thereby increasing the complexity of tracking inventory and operating our fulfillment centers. Our failure to properly handle such inventory or the inability of these other companies to accurately forecast product demand would result in unexpected costs and other harm to our business and reputation.
The Seasonality of Our Business Places Increased Strain on Our Operations
We expect a disproportionate amount of our net sales to occur during our fourth quarter. If we do not stock or restock popular products in sufficient amounts such that we fail to meet customer demand, it could significantly affect our revenue and our future growth. If we overstock products, we may be required to take
significant inventory markdowns or write-offs, which could reduce gross profits. We may experience an increase in our net shipping cost due to complimentary upgrades, split-shipments, and additional long-zone shipments necessary to ensure timely delivery for the holiday season. If too many customers access our websites within a short period of time due to increased holiday demand, we may experience system interruptions that make our websites unavailable or prevent us from efficiently fulfilling orders, which may reduce the volume of goods we sell and the attractiveness of our products and services. In addition, we may be unable to adequately staff our fulfillment and customer service centers during these peak periods and delivery and other fulfillment companies and customer service co-sourcers may be unable to meet the seasonal demand. We also face risks described elsewhere in this Item 1A relating to fulfillment center optimization and inventory.
We generally have payment terms with our vendors that extend beyond the amount of time necessary to collect proceeds from our customers. As a result of holiday sales, at December 31 of each year, our cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities balances typically reach their highest level (other than as a result of cash flows provided by or used in investing and financing activities). This operating cycle results in a corresponding increase in accounts payable at December 31. Our accounts payable balance generally declines during the first three months of the year, resulting in a corresponding decline in our cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities balances.
Our Business Could Suffer if We Are Unsuccessful in Making, Integrating, and Maintaining Commercial Agreements, Strategic Alliances, and Other Business Relationships
We provide e-commerce services to other businesses, such as through our seller programs, including Webstore by Amazon and Fulfillment by Amazon, as well as through other commercial agreements, strategic alliances and business relationships. Under these agreements, we provide technology, fulfillment and other services, as well as enable sellers to offer products or services through our websites and power their websites. These arrangements are complex and require substantial personnel and resource commitments by us, which may limit the agreements we are able to enter into and our ability to integrate and deliver services under them. If we fail to implement, maintain, and develop the components of these commercial relationships, which may include fulfillment, customer service, inventory management, tax collection, payment processing, licensing of third-party software, hardware, and content, and engaging third parties to perform hosting and other services, these initiatives may not be viable. The amount of compensation we receive under certain of these agreements is partially dependent on the volume of the other companys sales. Therefore, if the other companys offering is not successful, the compensation we receive may be lower than expected or the agreement may be terminated. Moreover, we may not be able to enter into additional commercial relationships and strategic alliances on favorable terms. We also may be subject to claims from businesses to which we provide these services if we are unsuccessful in implementing, maintaining or developing these services.
As our agreements terminate, we may be unable to renew or replace these agreements on comparable terms, or at all. Some of our agreements involve high margin services, such as marketing and promotional agreements, and as they expire they may be replaced, if at all, by agreements involving lower margin services. We may in the future enter into amendments on less favorable terms or encounter parties that have difficulty meeting their contractual obligations to us, which could adversely affect our operating results.
Our present and future e-commerce services agreements, other commercial agreements, and strategic alliances create additional risks such as:
Our Business Could Suffer if We Are Unsuccessful in Making, Integrating, and Maintaining Acquisitions and Investments
We have acquired and invested in a number of companies, and we may acquire or invest in or enter into joint ventures with additional companies. These transactions create risks such as:
As a result of future acquisitions or mergers, we might need to issue additional equity securities, spend our cash, or incur debt, contingent liabilities, or amortization expenses related to intangible assets, any of which could reduce our profitability and harm our business. In addition, valuations supporting our acquisitions and strategic investments could change rapidly given the current global economic climate. We could determine that such valuations have experienced impairments or other-than-temporary declines in fair value which could adversely impact our financial results.
We Have Foreign Exchange Risk
The results of operations of, and certain of our intercompany balances associated with, our international websites are exposed to foreign exchange rate fluctuations. Upon translation, operating results may differ materially from expectations, and we may record significant gains or losses on the remeasurement of intercompany balances. As we have expanded our international operations, our exposure to exchange rate fluctuations has increased.
In addition, our 6.875% Premium Adjustable Convertible Securities due 2010 (6.875% PEACS) are denominated in Euros and increases in the Euro relative to the U.S. Dollar increase the U.S. Dollar amount we owe as interest and principal on the 6.875% PEACS. We also hold cash equivalents and/or marketable securities primarily in Euros, British Pounds, and Japanese Yen. If the U.S. Dollar strengthens compared to these currencies, cash equivalents and marketable securities balances, when translated, may be materially less than expected and vice versa.
The Loss of Key Senior Management Personnel Could Negatively Affect Our Business
We depend on our senior management and other key personnel, particularly Jeffrey P. Bezos, our President, CEO, and Chairman. We do not have key person life insurance policies. The loss of any of our executive officers or other key employees could harm our business.
System Interruption and the Lack of Integration and Redundancy in Our Systems May Affect Our Sales
Customer access to our websites and the speed with which a customer navigates and makes purchases on our websites affect our net sales, operating results and the attractiveness of our products and services. We experience occasional system interruptions and delays that make our websites unavailable or slow to respond and prevent us from efficiently fulfilling orders or providing services to third parties, which may reduce our net sales and the attractiveness of our products and services. If we are unable to continually add software and hardware, effectively upgrade our systems and network infrastructure and take other steps to improve the efficiency of our systems, it could cause system interruptions or delays and adversely affect our operating results.
Our computer and communications systems and operations could be damaged or interrupted by fire, flood, power loss, telecommunications failure, earthquakes, acts of war or terrorism, acts of God, computer viruses, physical or electronic break-ins, and similar events or disruptions. Any of these events could cause system interruption, delays, and loss of critical data, and could prevent us from accepting and fulfilling customer orders and providing services, which would make our product and service offerings less attractive. Our systems are not fully redundant and our disaster recovery planning may not be sufficient. In addition, we may have inadequate insurance coverage to compensate us for any related losses. Any of these events could damage our reputation and be expensive to remedy.
We Have Outstanding Debt and May Incur Additional Debt in the Future
We have outstanding debt and may incur substantial additional debt in the future. As a result, a significant portion of our future cash flow from operating activities may be dedicated to the payment of interest and the repayment of principal on such indebtedness, with no guarantee that we will be able to meet our debt service obligations. If we are unable to generate sufficient cash flow or obtain funds for required payments, or if we fail to comply with our debt covenants, we will be in default. We may not be able to refinance our debt on terms acceptable to us, or at all, and there can be no assurance that additional lines-of-credit or financing instruments will be available in amounts or on terms acceptable to us, if at all. A lack or high cost of credit could limit our ability to obtain additional financing for working capital, capital expenditures, debt service requirements, acquisitions or other purposes in the future, as needed; to plan for, or react to, changes in technology and in our business and competition; and to react in the event of an economic downturn.
We Face Significant Inventory Risk
In addition to risks described elsewhere in this Item 1A relating to fulfillment center and inventory optimization by us and third parties, we are exposed to significant inventory risks that may adversely affect our operating results as a result of seasonality, new product launches, rapid changes in product cycles, changes in consumer demand and consumer spending patterns, changes in consumer tastes with respect to our products and other factors. We endeavor to accurately predict these trends and avoid overstocking or understocking products we manufacture and/or sell. Demand for products, however, can change significantly between the time inventory or components are ordered and the date of sale. In addition, when we begin selling or manufacturing a new product, it may be difficult to establish vendor relationships, determine appropriate product or component selection, and accurately forecast demand. The acquisition of certain types of inventory or components may require significant lead-time and prepayment and they may not be returnable. We carry a broad selection and significant inventory levels of certain products, such as consumer electronics, and we may be unable to sell products in sufficient quantities or during the relevant selling seasons. Any one of the inventory risk factors set forth above may adversely affect our operating results.
We May Not Be Able to Adequately Protect Our Intellectual Property Rights or May Be Accused of Infringing Intellectual Property Rights of Third Parties
We regard our trademarks, service marks, copyrights, patents, trade dress, trade secrets, proprietary technology, and similar intellectual property as critical to our success, and we rely on trademark, copyright, and patent law, trade secret protection, and confidentiality and/or license agreements with our employees, customers,
and others to protect our proprietary rights. Effective intellectual property protection may not be available in every country in which our products and services are made available. We also may not be able to acquire or maintain appropriate domain names in all countries in which we do business. Furthermore, regulations governing domain names may not protect our trademarks and similar proprietary rights. We may be unable to prevent third parties from acquiring domain names that are similar to, infringe upon, or diminish the value of our trademarks and other proprietary rights.
We may not be able to discover or determine the extent of any unauthorized use of our proprietary rights. Third parties that license our proprietary rights also may take actions that diminish the value of our proprietary rights or reputation. The protection of our intellectual property may require the expenditure of significant financial and managerial resources. Moreover, the steps we take to protect our intellectual property may not adequately protect our rights or prevent third parties from infringing or misappropriating our proprietary rights. We also cannot be certain that others will not independently develop or otherwise acquire equivalent or superior technology or other intellectual property rights.
Other parties also may claim that we infringe their proprietary rights. We have been subject to, and expect to continue to be subject to, claims and legal proceedings regarding alleged infringement by us of the intellectual property rights of third parties. Such claims, whether or not meritorious, may result in the expenditure of significant financial and managerial resources, injunctions against us or the payment of damages. We may need to obtain licenses from third parties who allege that we have infringed their rights, but such licenses may not be available on terms acceptable to us or at all. In addition, we may not be able to obtain or utilize on terms that are favorable to us, or at all, licenses or other rights with respect to intellectual property we do not own in providing e-commerce services to other businesses and individuals under commercial agreements. These risks have been amplified by the increase in third parties whose sole or primary business is to assert such claims.
Our digital content offerings depend in part on effective digital rights management technology to control access to digital content. If the digital rights management technology that we use is compromised or otherwise malfunctions, we could be subject to claims, and content providers may be unwilling to include their content in our service.
We Have a Rapidly Evolving Business Model and Our Stock Price Is Highly Volatile
We have a rapidly evolving business model. The trading price of our common stock fluctuates significantly in response to, among other risks, the risks described elsewhere in this Item 1A, as well as:
Volatility in our stock price could adversely affect our business and financing opportunities and force us to increase our cash compensation to employees or grant larger stock awards than we have historically, which could hurt our operating results or reduce the percentage ownership of our existing stockholders, or both.
Government Regulation of the Internet and E-commerce Is Evolving and Unfavorable Changes Could Harm Our Business
We are subject to general business regulations and laws, as well as regulations and laws specifically governing the Internet and e-commerce. Existing and future laws and regulations may impede the growth of the Internet or online services. These regulations and laws may cover taxation, privacy, data protection, pricing, content, copyrights, distribution, mobile communications, electronic contracts and other communications, consumer protection, the provision of online payment services, unencumbered Internet access to our services, the design and operation of websites, and the characteristics and quality of products and services. It is not clear how existing laws governing issues such as property ownership, libel, and personal privacy apply to the Internet and e-commerce. Jurisdictions may regulate consumer-to-consumer online businesses, including certain aspects of our seller programs. Unfavorable regulations and laws could diminish the demand for our products and services and increase our cost of doing business.
Taxation Risks Could Subject Us to Liability for Past Sales and Cause Our Future Sales to Decrease
We do not collect sales or other taxes on shipments of most of our goods into most states in the U.S. Under some of our commercial agreements, the other company is the seller of record, and we are obligated to collect sales tax in accordance with that companys instructions. We may enter into additional agreements requiring similar tax collection obligations. Our fulfillment center and customer service center networks, and any future expansion of them, along with other aspects of our evolving business, may result in additional sales and other tax obligations.
Currently, U.S. Supreme Court decisions restrict the imposition of obligations to collect state and local sales and use taxes with respect to sales made over the Internet. However, a number of states, as well as the U.S. Congress, have been considering or adopted initiatives that could limit or supersede the Supreme Courts position regarding sales and use taxes on Internet sales. If these initiatives are successful, we could be required to collect sales and use taxes in additional states. The imposition by state and local governments of various taxes upon Internet commerce could create administrative burdens for us, put us at a competitive disadvantage if they do not impose similar obligations on all of our online competitors and decrease our future sales.
We collect consumption tax (including value added tax, goods and services tax, and provincial sales tax) as applicable on goods and services sold by us that are ordered on our international sites. Additional foreign countries may seek to impose sales or other tax collection obligations on us.
A successful assertion by one or more states or foreign countries that we should collect sales or other taxes on the sale of merchandise or services could result in substantial tax liabilities for past sales, decrease our ability to compete with traditional retailers, and otherwise harm our business.
We Could be Subject to Additional Income Tax Liabilities
We are subject to income taxes in the United States and numerous foreign jurisdictions. Significant judgment is required in evaluating our worldwide provision for income taxes. During the ordinary course of business, there are many transactions for which the ultimate tax determination is uncertain. For example, our effective tax rates could be adversely affected by earnings being lower than anticipated in countries where we have lower statutory rates and higher than anticipated in countries where we have higher statutory rates, by changes in the valuation of our deferred tax assets and liabilities, or by changes in the relevant tax, accounting and other laws, regulations, principles and interpretations. We are subject to audit in various jurisdictions, and such jurisdictions may assess additional income tax against us. Although we believe our tax estimates are reasonable, the final determination of tax audits and any related litigation could be materially different from our historical income tax provisions and accruals. The results of an audit or litigation could have a material effect on our operating results or cash flows in the period or periods for which that determination is made.
Our Vendor Relationships Subject Us to a Number of Risks
We have significant vendors that are important to our sourcing, manufacturing and any related ongoing servicing of merchandise and content. We do not have long-term arrangements with most of our vendors to guarantee availability of merchandise, content, components or services, particular payment terms, or the extension of credit limits. If our current vendors were to stop selling merchandise, content, components or services to us on acceptable terms, including as a result of one or more vendor bankruptcies due to poor economic conditions, we may be unable to procure from other vendors in a timely and efficient manner and on acceptable terms, or at all.
We May Be Subject to Product Liability Claims if People or Property Are Harmed by the Products We Sell
Some of the products we sell or manufacture may expose us to product liability claims relating to personal injury, death, or environmental or property damage, and may require product recalls or other actions. Certain third parties also sell products using our e-commerce platform that may increase our exposure to product liability claims, such as if these sellers do not have sufficient protection from such claims. Although we maintain liability insurance, we cannot be certain that our coverage will be adequate for liabilities actually incurred or that insurance will continue to be available to us on economically reasonable terms, or at all. In addition, some of our agreements with our vendors and sellers do not indemnify us from product liability.
We Are Subject to Payments-Related Risks
We accept payments using a variety of methods, including credit card, debit card, credit accounts (including promotional financing), gift certificates, direct debit from a customers bank account, consumer invoicing, physical bank check and payment upon delivery. As we offer new payment options to our customers, we may be subject to additional regulations, compliance requirements, and fraud. For certain payment methods, including credit and debit cards, we pay interchange and other fees, which may increase over time and raise our operating costs and lower our profit margins. We rely on third parties to provide payment processing services, including the processing of credit cards, debit cards, electronic checks, and promotional financing, and it could disrupt our business if these companies become unwilling or unable to provide these services to us. We are also subject to payment card association operating rules, certification requirements and rules governing electronic funds transfers, which could change or be reinterpreted to make it difficult or impossible for us to comply. If we fail to comply with these rules or requirements, we may be subject to fines and higher transaction fees and lose our ability to accept credit and debit card payments from our customers, process electronic funds transfers, or facilitate other types of online payments, and our business and operating results could be adversely affected. We also offer co-branded credit card programs that represent a significant component of our services revenue and generate high margins. If one or more of these agreements are terminated and we are unable to replace them on similar terms, or at all, it could adversely affect our operating results.
In addition, we qualify as a money services business in certain jurisdictions because we enable customers to keep account balances with us and transfer money to third parties, and because we provide services to third parties to facilitate payments on their behalf. In these jurisdictions, we may be subject to requirements for licensing, regulatory inspection, bonding, the handling of transferred funds and consumer disclosures. We are also subject to or voluntarily comply with a number of other laws and regulations relating to money laundering, international money transfers, privacy and information security and electronic fund transfers. If we were found to be in violation of applicable laws or regulations, we could be subject to civil and criminal penalties or forced to cease our payments services business.
We Could Be Liable for Breaches of Security on Our Websites
Although we have developed systems and processes that are designed to protect consumer information and prevent fraudulent payment transactions and other security breaches, failure to prevent or mitigate such fraud or breaches may adversely affect our operating results.
We Could Be Liable for Fraudulent or Unlawful Activities of Sellers
The law relating to the liability of providers of online payment services is currently unsettled. In addition, governmental agencies could require changes in the way this business is conducted. Under our seller programs, we may be unable to prevent sellers from collecting payments, fraudulently or otherwise, when buyers never receive the products they ordered or when the products received are materially different from the sellers descriptions. Under our A2Z Guarantee, we reimburse buyers for payments up to certain limits in these situations, and as our marketplace seller sales grow, the cost of this program will increase and could negatively affect our operating results. We also may be unable to prevent sellers on our sites or through other seller sites from selling unlawful goods, from selling goods in an unlawful manner, or violating the proprietary rights of others, and could face civil or criminal liability for unlawful activities by our sellers.
Item 2. Properties
As of December 31, 2008, we operated the following facilities:
We lease our corporate headquarters in Seattle, Washington. We also lease additional corporate office, fulfillment and warehouse operations, customer service, and other facilities throughout the United States, principally in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Outside of the United States, we also lease corporate office, fulfillment and warehouse operations, customer service, and other facilities, principally in China, Costa Rica, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom. We periodically evaluate our facility requirements as necessary.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
See Item 8 of Part II, Financial Statements and Supplementary DataNote 7Commitments and ContingenciesLegal Proceedings.
Item 4. Submission of Matters to a Vote of Security Holders
No matters were submitted for a vote of our shareholders during the fourth quarter of 2008.
Our common stock is traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol AMZN. The following table sets forth the high and low closing prices for our common stock for the periods indicated, as reported by the Nasdaq Global Select Market.
As of January 15, 2009, there were 3,552 shareholders of record of our common stock, although there are a much larger number of beneficial owners.
We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our common stock. See Item 7 of Part II, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of OperationsLiquidity and Capital Resources.
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
On February 8, 2008, we publicly announced that our Board of Directors had authorized the Company to repurchase up to $1 billion of the Companys common stock on or before February 8, 2010. We may make these purchases in the open market or through privately negotiated transactions and in discretionary purchases or pursuant to pre-established purchase plans. The table below sets forth information regarding our purchases of our common stock during Q4 2008 (in millions, except per share data):
The following selected consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto in Item 8 of Part II, Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, and the information contained in Item 7 of Part II, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. Historical results are not necessarily indicative of future results.
Item 7. Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
This Annual Report on Form 10-K includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements other than statements of historical fact, including statements regarding guidance, industry prospects or future results of operations or financial position, made in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are forward-looking. We use words such as anticipates, believes, expects, future, intends, and similar expressions to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements reflect managements current expectations and are inherently uncertain. Actual results could differ materially for a variety of reasons, including, among others, fluctuations in foreign exchange rates, changes in global economic conditions and consumer spending, world events, the rate of growth of the Internet and online commerce, the amount that Amazon.com invests in new business opportunities and the timing of those investments, the mix of products sold to customers, the mix of net sales derived from products as compared with services, the extent to which we owe income taxes, competition, management of growth, potential fluctuations in operating results, international growth and expansion, the outcomes of legal proceedings and claims, fulfillment center optimization, risks of inventory management, seasonality, the degree to which the Company enters into, maintains, and develops commercial agreements, acquisitions, and strategic transactions, payments risks, and risks of fulfillment throughput and productivity. In addition, the current global economic climate amplifies many of these risks. These risks and uncertainties, as well as other risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ significantly from managements expectations, are described in greater detail in Item 1A of Part I, Risk Factors.
Our primary source of revenue is the sale of a wide range of products and services to customers. The products offered on our customer-facing websites primarily include merchandise and content we have purchased for resale from vendors and products offered by third party sellers. Generally, we recognize gross revenue from items we sell from our inventory and recognize our net share of revenue of items sold by other sellers. We also offer services such as Amazon Web Services, co-branded credit cards, fulfillment, and miscellaneous marketing and promotional offers, such as online advertising.
Our financial focus is on long-term, sustainable growth in free cash flow1 per share. Free cash flow is driven primarily by increasing operating income and efficiently managing working capital and capital expenditures. Increases in operating income primarily result from increases in sales through our websites and efficiently managing our operating costs, offset by investments we make in longer-term strategic initiatives, which generally require us to hire additional software engineers, computer scientists, and merchandisers. To increase product sales, we focus on improving all aspects of the customer experience, including lowering prices, improving availability, offering faster delivery times, increasing selection, increasing product categories, expanding product information, improving ease of use, and earning customer trust. We generally focus on growing gross profit and operating profit dollars rather than maximizing margin percentages.
We also seek to efficiently manage shareholder dilution while maintaining the flexibility to issue shares for strategic purposes, such as financings and aligning employee compensation with shareholders interests. We utilize restricted stock units as our primary vehicle for equity compensation because we believe they align the interests of our shareholders and employees. In measuring shareholder dilution, we include all stock awards outstanding, without regard to estimated forfeitures, consisting of vested and unvested awards and in-the-money and out-of-the-money stock options. Total shares outstanding plus outstanding stock awards were 446 million
and 435 million at December 31, 2008 and 2007. These amounts exclude shares issuable upon conversion of our long-term debt. In 2008 and 2007, we repurchased 2.2 million shares and 6.3 million shares of our common stock under repurchase programs authorized by our Board of Directors.
We seek to reduce our variable costs per unit and work to leverage our fixed costs. Our variable costs include product and content costs, payment processing and related transaction costs, picking, packaging, and preparing orders for shipment, transportation, customer service support, and most aspects of our marketing costs. Our fixed costs include the costs necessary to run our technology infrastructure, build, enhance, and add features to our websites and build and optimize our fulfillment centers. Variable costs generally change directly with sales volume, while fixed costs generally increase depending on the timing of capacity needs, geographic expansion, category expansion, and other factors. To decrease our variable costs on a per unit basis and enable us to lower prices for customers, we seek to increase our direct to content provider and manufacturer sourcing, maximize discounts available to us from suppliers and reduce defects in our processes. To minimize growth in fixed costs, we seek to improve process efficiencies and maintain a lean culture.
Because of our model we are able to turn our inventory quickly and have a cash-generating operating cycle2. On average our high inventory velocity means we generally collect from our customers before our payments to suppliers come due. Inventory turnover3 was 12, 13, and 13 for 2008, 2007, and 2006. We expect some variability in inventory turnover over time since it is affected by several factors, including our product mix, the mix of sales by us and by other sellers, our continuing focus on in-stock inventory availability, our investment in new geographies and product lines, and the extent to which we choose to utilize outsource fulfillment providers. Accounts payable days4 were 62, 57, and 53 for 2008, 2007 and 2006. We expect some variability in accounts payable days over time since they are affected by several factors, including the mix of product sales, the mix of sales by other sellers, the mix of suppliers, seasonality, and changes in payment terms over time, including the effect of balancing pricing and timing of payment terms with suppliers.
We expect spending in technology and content will increase over time as we add computer scientists, software engineers, and employees involved in category expansion, editorial content, buying, merchandising selection, and systems support. We seek to efficiently invest in several areas of technology and content, including seller platforms, web services, digital initiatives, and expansion of new and existing product categories, as well as in technology infrastructure to enhance the customer experience, improve our process efficiencies and support our infrastructure web services. We believe that advances in technology, specifically the speed and reduced cost of processing power, the improved consumer experience of the Internet outside of the workplace through lower-cost broadband service to the home, and the advances of wireless connectivity, will continue to improve the consumer experience on the Internet and increase its ubiquity in peoples lives. We are investing in Amazon Web Services, which provides technology services that give developers access to technology infrastructure that they can use to enable virtually any type of business. A continuing challenge will be to continue to build and deploy innovative and efficient software that will best take advantage of continued advances in technology.
Our financial reporting currency is the U.S. Dollar and changes in exchange rates significantly affect our reported results and consolidated trends. For example, if the U.S. Dollar weakens year-over-year relative to currencies in our international locations, our consolidated net sales, gross profit, and operating expenses will be higher than if currencies had remained constant. Likewise, if the U.S. Dollar strengthens year-over-year relative to currencies in our international locations, our consolidated net sales, gross profit, and operating expenses will be lower than if currencies had remained constant. We believe that our increasing diversification beyond the U.S.
economy through our growing international businesses benefits our shareholders over the long term. We also believe it is important to evaluate our operating results and growth rates before and after the effect of currency changes.
In addition, the remeasurement of our 6.875% PEACS and intercompany balances can result in significant gains and charges associated with the effect of movements in currency exchange rates. Currency volatilities may continue, which may significantly impact (either positively or negatively) our reported results and consolidated trends and comparisons.
For additional information about each line item summarized above, refer to Item 8 of Part II, Financial Statements and Supplementary DataNote 1Description of Business and Accounting Policies.
Critical Accounting Judgments
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles of the United States (GAAP) requires estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, revenues and expenses, and related disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities in the consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes. The SEC has defined a companys critical accounting policies as the ones that are most important to the portrayal of the companys financial condition and results of operations, and which require the company to make its most difficult and subjective judgments, often as a result of the need to make estimates of matters that are inherently uncertain. Based on this definition, we have identified the critical accounting policies and judgments addressed below. We also have other key accounting policies, which involve the use of estimates, judgments, and assumptions that are significant to understanding our results. For additional information, see Item 8 of Part II, Financial Statements and Supplementary DataNote 1Description of Business and Accounting Policies. Although we believe that our estimates, assumptions, and judgments are reasonable, they are based upon information presently available. Actual results may differ significantly from these estimates under different assumptions, judgments, or conditions.
We recognize revenue from product sales or services rendered when the following four revenue recognition criteria are met: persuasive evidence of an arrangement exists, delivery has occurred or services have been rendered, the selling price is fixed or determinable, and collectability is reasonably assured. Additionally, revenue arrangements with multiple deliverables are divided into separate units of accounting if the deliverables in the arrangement meet the following criteria: the delivered item has value to the customer on a standalone basis; there is objective and reliable evidence of the fair value of undelivered items; and delivery of any undelivered item is probable.
We evaluate the criteria of Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF) Issue No. 99-19, Reporting Revenue Gross as a Principal Versus Net as an Agent, in determining whether it is appropriate to record the gross amount of product sales and related costs or the net amount earned as commissions. Generally, when we are the primary party obligated in a transaction, are subject to inventory risk, have latitude in establishing prices and selecting suppliers, or have several but not all of these indicators, revenue is recorded gross. If we are not primarily obligated and amounts earned are determined using a percentage, a fixed-payment schedule, or a combination of the two, we generally record the net amounts as commissions earned.
Product sales and shipping revenues, net of promotional discounts, rebates, and return allowances, are recorded when the products are shipped and title passes to customers. Retail items sold to customers are made pursuant to sales contracts that generally provide for transfer of both title and risk of loss upon our delivery to the carrier. Return allowances, which reduce product revenue by our best estimate of expected product returns, are estimated using historical experience. Revenue from product sales and services rendered is recorded net of sales taxes. Amounts paid in advance for subscription services, including amounts received for Amazon Prime and
other membership programs, are deferred and recognized as revenue over the subscription term. For our products with multiple elements, where a standalone value for each element cannot be established, we recognize the revenue and related cost over the estimated economic life of the product.
We periodically provide incentive offers to our customers to encourage purchases. Such offers include current discount offers, such as percentage discounts off current purchases, inducement offers, such as offers for future discounts subject to a minimum current purchase, and other similar offers. Current discount offers, when accepted by our customers, are treated as a reduction to the purchase price of the related transaction, while inducement offers, when accepted by our customers, are treated as a reduction to purchase price based on estimated future redemption rates. Redemption rates are estimated using our historical experience for similar inducement offers. Current discount offers and inducement offers are classified as an offsetting amount in Net sales.
Commissions and per-unit fees received from sellers and similar amounts earned through other seller sites are recognized when the item is sold by the seller and our collectability is reasonably assured. When we are responsible for fulfillment-related services, commissions are recognized when risk of loss and title transfer to the customer. We record an allowance for estimated refunds on such commissions using historical experience.
Inventories, consisting of products available for sale, are accounted for using the first-in first-out (FIFO) method, and are valued at the lower of cost or market value. This valuation requires us to make judgments, based on currently-available information, about the likely method of disposition, such as through sales to individual customers, returns to product vendors, or liquidations, and expected recoverable values of each disposition category. Based on this evaluation, we adjust the carrying amount of our inventories to lower of cost or market value.
We provide fulfillment-related services in connection with certain of our agreements. In those arrangements, as well as other product sales by other sellers, the seller maintains ownership of the related products. As such, these amounts are not included in our consolidated balance sheets.
We generally invest our excess cash in investment grade short- to intermediate-term fixed income securities and AAA-rated money market funds. We also have equity-method investments in private companies where we can exercise significant influence over, but not control, the entity. We periodically evaluate whether declines in fair values of our investments are other-than-temporary. This evaluation consists of several qualitative and quantitative factors regarding the severity and duration of the unrealized loss as well as our ability and intent to hold the investment. Factors considered include, if applicable, quoted market prices; recent financial results and operating trends; other publicly available information; implied values from any recent transactions or offers of investee securities; or other conditions that may affect the value of our investments.
We evaluate goodwill for impairment annually and when an event occurs or circumstances change to suggest that the carrying value may not be recoverable. Our annual testing date is October 1. We test goodwill for impairment by first comparing the book value of net assets to the fair value of the related operations. If the fair value is determined to be less than book value, a second step is performed to compute the amount of impairment. We estimate fair value using discounted cash flows of reporting units. Forecasts of future cash flow are based on our best estimate of future net sales and operating expenses, based primarily on projected category expansion, pricing expectations, market segment penetration and general economic conditions. Additionally, certain estimates of discounted cash flows involve businesses and geographies with limited financial history and
developing revenue models. In this process, a fair value for goodwill is estimated and compared to its carrying value. The shortfall of the fair value below carrying value represents the amount of goodwill impairment. Changes in these forecasts could significantly change the amount of impairment recorded, if any.
The financial and credit market volatility directly impacts our fair value measurement through our weighted average cost of capital that we use to determine our discount rate and through our stock price that we use to determine our market capitalization. During times of volatility, significant judgment must be applied to determine whether credit or stock price changes are a short term swing or a longer-term trend.
Internal-Use Software and Website Development
Included in fixed assets is the capitalized cost of internal-use software and website development, including software used to upgrade and enhance our websites and processes supporting our business. As required by Statement of Position (SOP) 98-1, Accounting for the Costs of Computer Software Developed or Obtained for Internal Use, we capitalize costs incurred during the application development stage of internal-use software and amortize these costs over its estimated useful life of two years. Costs incurred related to design or maintenance of internal-use software are expensed as incurred.
We measure compensation cost for stock awards at fair value and recognize compensation over the service period for awards expected to vest. The fair value of restricted stock and restricted stock units is determined based on the number of shares granted and the quoted price of our common stock. The estimation of stock awards that will ultimately vest requires judgment, and to the extent actual results or updated estimates differ from our current estimates, such amounts will be recorded as a cumulative adjustment in the period estimates are revised. We consider many factors when estimating expected forfeitures, including types of awards, employee class, and historical experience. Actual results and future estimates may differ substantially from our current estimates.
We utilize the accelerated method, rather than a straight-line method, for recognizing compensation expense. Under this method, over 50% of the compensation cost would be expensed in the first year of a four year vesting term. The accelerated method also adds a higher level of sensitivity and complexity in estimating forfeitures. If forfeited early in the life of an award, the forfeited amount is much greater under an accelerated method than under a straight-line method.
We are subject to income taxes in both the U.S. and numerous foreign jurisdictions. Significant judgment is required in evaluating our tax positions and determining our provision for income taxes. During the ordinary course of business, there are many transactions and calculations for which the ultimate tax determination is uncertain. We establish reserves for tax-related uncertainties based on estimates of whether, and the extent to which, additional taxes will be due. These reserves for tax contingencies are established when we believe that certain positions might be challenged despite our belief that our tax return positions are fully supportable. We adjust these reserves in light of changing facts and circumstances, such as the outcome of tax audit. The provision for income taxes includes the impact of reserve provisions and changes to reserves that are considered appropriate.
Deferred income tax balances reflect the effects of temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities and their tax bases and are stated at enacted tax rates expected to be in effect when taxes are actually paid or recovered. The majority of our gross deferred tax assets relate to net operating loss carryforwards attributable to differences in stock-based compensation between the financial statements and our tax returns.
Statement of Financial Accounting Standards (SFAS) No. 109, Accounting for Income Taxes, requires that deferred tax assets be evaluated for future realization and reduced by a valuation allowance to the extent we believe a portion will not be realized. We consider many factors when assessing the likelihood of future realization of our deferred tax assets, including our recent cumulative earnings experience and expectations of future taxable income by taxing jurisdiction, the carry-forward periods available to us for tax reporting purposes, and other relevant factors. In accordance with the provisions of SFAS No. 109, we allocate our valuation allowance to current and long-term deferred tax assets on a pro-rata basis.
If we determine that additional portions of our deferred tax assets are realizable the majority of the benefit will come from the assets associated with the stock-based compensation that was not recognized in the financial statements, but was claimed on the tax return. Since this compensation did not originally run through our consolidated statements of operations, the benefit generated will be recorded to stockholders equity.
Effective January 1, 2007, we adopted the provisions of FASB Interpretation (FIN) No. 48, Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxesan Interpretation of FASB Statement No. 109. FIN 48 contains a two-step approach to recognizing and measuring uncertain tax positions (tax contingencies) accounted for in accordance with SFAS No. 109. The first step is to evaluate the tax position for recognition by determining if the weight of available evidence indicates it is more likely than not that the position will be sustained on audit, including resolution of related appeals or litigation processes, if any. The second step is to measure the tax benefit as the largest amount which is more than 50% likely of being realized upon ultimate settlement. We consider many factors when evaluating and estimating our tax positions and tax benefits, which may require periodic adjustments and which may not accurately anticipate actual outcomes.
Recent Accounting Pronouncements
In September 2006, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued SFAS No. 157, Fair Value Measurements, which defines fair value, establishes a framework for measuring fair value in accordance with U.S. GAAP and expands disclosures about fair value measurements. For financial assets and liabilities, SFAS No. 157 was effective for fiscal years beginning after November 15, 2007, and interim periods within those fiscal years. See Note 1Description of Business and Accounting Policies and Note 2Cash, Cash Equivalents, and Marketable Securities for further discussion. In February 2008, the FASB issued Staff Position (FSP) No. 157-2 which delays the effective date of SFAS No. 157 one year for all nonfinancial assets and nonfinancial liabilities, except those recognized or disclosed at fair value in the financial statements on a recurring basis. FSP 157-2 is effective for us beginning January 1, 2009.
Those assets and liabilities measured at fair value under SFAS No. 157 in Q1 2008 did not have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements. In accordance with FSP 157-2, we will measure the remaining assets and liabilities beginning Q1 2009. We do not expect the adoption of SFAS No. 157, as amended by FSP 157-2, will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.
In December 2007, the FASB issued SFAS No. 141 (R), Business Combinations, and SFAS No. 160, Noncontrolling Interests in Consolidated Financial Statements. SFAS No. 141 (R) requires an acquirer to measure the identifiable assets acquired, the liabilities assumed and any noncontrolling interest in the acquired entity at their fair values on the acquisition date, with goodwill being the excess value over the net identifiable assets acquired. SFAS No. 160 clarifies that a noncontrolling interest in a subsidiary should be reported as equity in the consolidated financial statements. The calculation of earnings per share will continue to be based on income amounts attributable to the parent. SFAS No. 141 (R) and SFAS No. 160 are effective for financial statements issued for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2008. Early adoption is prohibited. We do not expect the adoption of SFAS No. 141 (R) and SFAS No. 160 will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.
In April 2008, the FASB issued FSP No. 142-3, Determination of the Useful Life of Intangible Assets. FSP No. 142-3 amends the factors that should be considered in developing renewal or extension assumptions used to
determine the useful life of a recognized intangible asset under FASB Statement No. 142, Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets. FSP No. 142-3 is effective for financial statements issued for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2008. Early adoption is prohibited. We do not expect the adoption of FSP No. 142-3 will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.
In June 2008, the FASB ratified the consensus reached on EITF Issue No. 07-05, Determining Whether an Instrument (or Embedded Feature) Is Indexed to an Entitys Own Stock. EITF Issue No. 07-05 clarifies the determination of whether an instrument (or an embedded feature) is indexed to an entitys own stock, which would qualify as a scope exception under SFAS No. 133, Accounting for Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities. EITF Issue No. 07-05 is effective for financial statements issued for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2008. Early adoption for an existing instrument is not permitted. We do not expect the adoption of EITF Issue No. 07-05 will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.
Liquidity and Capital Resources
Cash flow information is as follows:
Our financial focus is on long-term, sustainable growth in free cash flow. Free cash flow, a non-GAAP financial measure, was $1.36 billion for 2008, compared to $1.18 billion and $486 million for 2007 and 2006. See Results of OperationsNon-GAAP Financial Measures below for a reconciliation of free cash flow to cash provided by operating activities. The increase in free cash flow in 2008 primarily resulted from increased operating income, offset by increased capital expenditures. The increase in free cash flow in 2007 primarily resulted from increased operating income. Operating cash flows and free cash flows can be volatile and are sensitive to many factors, including changes in working capital, and the timing and magnitude of capital expenditures. Working capital at any specific point in time is subject to many variables, including seasonality, inventory management and category expansion, the timing of cash receipts and payments, vendor payment terms, valuation of cash equivalents and marketable securities, and fluctuations in foreign exchange rates.
Our principal sources of liquidity are cash flows generated from operations and our cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities balances, which, at fair value, were $3.7 billion, $3.1 billion, and $2.0 billion at December 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006. Amounts held in foreign currencies were $1.7 billion, $1.2 billion, and $623 million at December 31, 2008, 2007, and 2006, and were primarily Euros, British Pounds, and Japanese Yen. See Item 8 of Part II, Financial Statements and Supplementary DataNote 12Income Taxes.
Cash provided by operating activities was $1.7 billion, $1.4 billion, and $702 million in 2008, 2007, and 2006. Our operating cash flows result primarily from cash received from our customers, from sellers, and from non-retail activities such as through our co-branded credit card agreements, other seller services, and miscellaneous marketing and promotional agreements, offset by cash payments we make for products and services, employee compensation (less amounts capitalized pursuant to SOP 98-1 that are reflected as cash used in investing activities), payment processing and related transaction costs, operating leases, and interest payments on our long-term debt obligations. Cash received from customers, sellers, developers, and other activities generally corresponds to our net sales. Because our customers primarily use credit cards to buy from us, our receivables from customers settle quickly.
Cash provided by (used in) investing activities corresponds with purchases, sales, and maturities of marketable securities, cash outlays for acquisitions, equity-method investments and intellectual property rights,
and purchases of fixed assets, including internal-use software and website development costs. Cash provided by (used in) investing activities was $(1.2) billion, $42 million, and $(333) million in 2008, 2007, and 2006, with the variability caused primarily by purchases, maturities, and sales of marketable securities and other investments, and acquisition activity. Capital expenditures were $333 million, $224 million, and $216 million in 2008, 2007 and 2006, with the sequential increases primarily reflecting additional investments in technology infrastructure, fulfillment-related assets and the development of new features and product offerings on our websites. Capital expenditures included $128 million, $108 million, and $108 million for internal-use software and website development during 2008, 2007 and 2006. Stock-based compensation capitalized for internal-use software and website development costs does not affect cash flows. In 2008, 2007 and 2006, we made payments, net of acquired cash, related to acquisition and investment activity of $494 million, $75 million, and $32 million.
Cash provided by (used in) financing activities was $(198) million, $50 million, and $(400) million, in 2008, 2007, and 2006. Cash outflows from financing activities result from repurchases of common stock, repayments of long-term debt, and payments on capital lease obligations. We repurchased 2.2 million shares of common stock for $100 million in 2008 under the $1 billion repurchase program authorized by our Board of Directors in February 2008. We repurchased 6.3 million shares of common stock for $248 million in 2007, and 8.2 million shares of common stock for $252 million in 2006, under the $500 million repurchase program authorized by our Board of Directors in August 2006. Repayments on long-term debt and payments on capital lease obligations were $355 million, $74 million, and $383 million, in 2008, 2007, and 2006. Repayments on long-term debt include $294 million on our 4.75% Convertible Subordinated Notes in 2008, and 250 million ($300 million) of our 6.875% PEACS in 2006. See Item 8 of Part II, Financial Statements and Supplementary DataNote 5Long-Term Debt. Cash inflows from financing activities primarily result from proceeds from tax benefits relating to excess stock-based compensation deductions and exercises of employee stock options. SFAS No. 123(R), Accounting for Stock Based Compensation, requires the reporting of tax benefits relating to excess stock-based compensation deductions in financing cash flows. Cash inflows from tax benefits related to stock-based compensation deductions were $159 million, $257 million, and $102 million in 2008, 2007, and 2006. Cash inflows from proceeds from exercise of employee stock options were $11 million, $91 million, and $35 million, in 2008, 2007, and 2006. We expect cash proceeds from exercises of stock options will decline over time as we continue issuing restricted stock units as our primary vehicle for stock-based awards.
In 2008, 2007 and 2006 we recorded net tax provisions of $247 million, $184 million, and $187 million. A majority of this provision is non-cash. We have current tax benefits and net operating losses relating to excess stock-based compensation deductions that are being utilized to reduce our U.S. taxable income. As such, cash taxes paid were $53 million, $24 million, and $15 million for 2008, 2007, and 2006. As our federal and state net operating losses and tax credits are utilized, cash paid for taxes will increase. We endeavor to optimize our global taxes on a cash basis, rather than on a financial reporting basis.
In February 2008, our Board of Directors authorized a debt repurchase program, replacing our previous debt repurchase authorization in its entirety, pursuant to which we may from time to time repurchase (through open market repurchases or private transactions), redeem, or otherwise retire up to all of our outstanding 4.75% Convertible Subordinated Notes due 2009 and 6.875% PEACS. In 2008, we called for redemption all of the remaining principal amount of $899 million of our outstanding 4.75% Convertible Subordinated Notes. Holders elected to convert $605 million in principal amount of the 4.75% Convertible Subordinated Notes, and we issued 7.8 million shares of our common stock as a result. We redeemed the remaining $294 million of the called principal amount for cash. At December 31, 2008, the debt balance of our 4.75% Convertible Subordinated Notes was zero, and the debt balance of our 6.875% PEACS was $335 million.
In August 2006, our Board of Directors authorized a 24-month program to repurchase up to $500 million of our common stock, pursuant to which we repurchased $252 million and $248 million of our common stock in 2006 and 2007, respectively. In April 2007, our Board authorized a new 24-month program to repurchase up to $500 million of our common stock, which was replaced in February 2008 by a 24-month program to repurchase up to $1 billion of our common stock. We repurchased $100 million of our common stock in 2008 under the February 2008 Board authorization.
Since our 6.875% PEACS, which are due in 2010, are denominated in Euros, our U.S. Dollar equivalent interest payments and principal obligations fluctuate with the Euro to U.S. Dollar exchange rate. As a result, any fluctuations in the exchange rate will have an effect on our interest expense and, to the extent we make principal payments, the amount of U.S. Dollar equivalents necessary for principal settlement. Additionally, since our interest payable on our 6.875% PEACS is due in Euros, the balance of interest payable is subject to gains or losses on currency movements until the date of the interest payment. Gains or losses on the remeasurement of our Euro-denominated interest payable are classified as Other income (expense), net on our consolidated statements of operations.
On average, our high inventory velocity means we generally collect from our customers before our payments to suppliers come due. Inventory turnover was 12, 13, and 13 for 2008, 2007, and 2006. Inventory turnover has declined slightly over the last several years, primarily due to category expansion and changes in product mix, and our continuing focus on in-stock inventory availability, which enables faster delivery of products to our customers. We expect some variability in inventory turnover over time as it is affected by several factors, including our product mix, the mix of sales by us and by other sellers, our continuing focus on in-stock inventory availability, our investment in new geographies and product lines, and the extent to which we choose to utilize outsource fulfillment providers.
The following summarizes our principal contractual commitments as of December 31, 2008:
We are required to pledge or otherwise restrict a portion of our cash and marketable securities as collateral for standby letters of credit, guarantees, debt, and real estate leases. We classify cash and marketable securities with use restrictions of twelve months or longer as non-current Other assets on our consolidated balance sheets. The balance of pledged securities at December 31, 2008 consisted of $308 million included in Other assets. The amount required to be pledged for certain real estate lease agreements changes over the life of our leases based on our credit rating and changes in our market capitalization (common shares outstanding multiplied by the closing price of our common stock). Information about collateral required to be pledged under these agreements is as follows:
We believe that current cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities balances will be sufficient to meet our anticipated operating cash needs for at least the next 12 months. However, any projections of future cash needs and cash flows are subject to substantial uncertainty. See Item 1A of Part I, Risk Factors. We continually evaluate opportunities to sell additional equity or debt securities, obtain credit facilities, repurchase common stock, pay dividends, or repurchase, refinance, or otherwise restructure our long-term debt for strategic reasons or to further strengthen our financial position. The sale of additional equity or convertible debt securities would likely be dilutive to our shareholders. In addition, we will, from time to time, consider the acquisition of, or investment in, complementary businesses, products, services, and technologies, which might affect our liquidity requirements or cause us to issue additional equity or debt securities. There can be no assurance that additional lines-of-credit or financing instruments will be available in amounts or on terms acceptable to us, if at all.
Results of Operations
We have organized our operations into two principal segments: North America and International. We present our segment information along the same lines that our chief executive reviews our operating results in assessing performance and allocating resources. Our period-over-period revenue growth was 26% in 2006, 39% in 2007 and 36% for the first three quarters of 2008. For Q4 2008, our quarterly revenue growth rate declined to 18%, driven primarily by decreased consumer demand following disruptions in the global financial markets and changes in foreign exchange rates (excluding the $320 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the fourth quarter, net sales would have grown 24% compared with Q4 2007). See Item 8 of Part II, Financial Statements and Supplementary DataNote 14Quarterly Results (Unaudited).
Net Sales and Gross Profit
Net sales information is as follows:
Revenue increased 29%, 39%, and 26% in 2008, 2007, and 2006, reflecting revenue growth in both our North America and International segments. Additionally, changes in currency exchange rates positively affected net sales by $127 million, $399 million, and $24 million for 2008, 2007, and 2006. For a discussion of the effect on revenue growth of exchange rates, see Effect of Exchange Rates below.
The North America revenue growth rate was 26%, 38%, and 25% in 2008, 2007, and 2006. The increase in revenue in each year primarily reflects increased unit sales driven largely by our continued efforts to reduce prices for our customers, including from our free shipping offers and Amazon Prime, a larger base of sales in faster growing categories such as electronics and other general merchandise, increased in-stock inventory availability, and increased selection of product offerings.
The International revenue growth rate was 33%, 39%, and 28% in 2008, 2007, and 2006. The increase in revenue in each year reflects increased unit sales driven largely by our continued efforts to reduce prices for our customers, including from our free shipping offers, a larger base of sales in faster growing categories such as electronics and other general merchandise, increased in-stock inventory availability, and increased selection of product offerings. Additionally, changes in currency exchange rates positively affected International net sales by $131 million, $390 million, and $18 million in 2008, 2007, and 2006.
We expect that, over time, our International segment will represent 50% or more of our consolidated net sales. Additionally, as we continue to offer increased selection, lower prices, and additional product lines within our electronics and other general merchandise category, we expect to see the relative mix of sales from this category increase. See Supplemental Information below.
Gross profit information is as follows:
The increase in gross profit in absolute terms during 2008, compared to 2007 and 2006, corresponds with increases in sales, offset by lower prices for customers including from free shipping offers and Amazon Prime. Generally, our gross margins fluctuate based on several factors, including our product, service, and geographic mix of sales; sales volumes by other sellers; changes in vendor pricing, including the extent to which we receive discounts and allowances; lowering prices for customers, including from competitive pricing decisions; improvements in product sourcing and inventory management; and the extent to which our customers accept our free shipping and Amazon Prime offers. Such free shipping and Amazon Prime offers reduce shipping revenue and reduce our gross margins on retail sales. We view our shipping offers as an effective worldwide marketing tool and intend to continue offering them indefinitely.
Sales of products by marketplace sellers on our websites represented 29%, 28%, and 28% of unit sales in 2008, 2007, and 2006. Since revenues from these sales are recorded as a net amount, they generally result in lower revenues but higher gross margin per unit. Since we focus on profit dollars rather than margins, we are largely neutral on whether an item is sold by us or by another seller.
Gross profit growth is also affected by changes in exchange ratessee Effect of Exchange Rates below.
North America segment gross margins in 2008 decreased by 69 basis points compared to 2007 resulting primarily from our efforts to continue reducing prices for our customers, including from our free shipping offers and Amazon Prime, and a larger percent of overall sales in lower margin categories such as electronics and other general merchandise, partially offset by increases in other revenue and improvements in vendor pricing.
North America segment gross margins in 2007 decreased by 90 basis points compared to 2006 resulting primarily from our efforts to continue reducing prices for our customers, including from our free shipping offers and Amazon Prime, and a larger percent of overall sales in lower margin categories such as electronics and other general merchandise.
International segment gross margins in 2008 increased by 25 basis points compared to 2007 resulting primarily from increases in sales of products by other sellers and improvements in vendor pricing, partially offset by our efforts to continue reducing prices for our customers, including from our free shipping offers and Amazon Prime, and a larger percent of overall sales in lower margin categories such as electronics and other general merchandise.
International segment gross margins in 2007 increased by 38 basis points compared to 2006 resulting primarily from increases in sales of products by other sellers, offset partially by our efforts to continue reducing prices for our customers, including from our free shipping offers and Amazon Prime, and a larger percent of overall sales in lower margin categories such as electronics and other general merchandise.
Supplemental information about shipping results is as follows:
We believe that offering low prices to our customers is fundamental to our future success. One way we offer lower prices is through free-shipping offers that result in a net cost to us in delivering products, as well as through membership in Amazon Prime. To the extent our customers accept and use our free shipping offers at an increasing rate, including memberships in Amazon Prime, our net cost of shipping will increase. We seek to partially mitigate the costs of lowering prices over time through achieving higher sales volumes, negotiating better terms with our suppliers, and achieving better operating efficiencies.
Supplemental information about our net sales is as follows:
Information about operating expenses with and without stock-based compensation is as follows (in millions):
Operating expenses without stock-based compensation are non-GAAP financial measures. See Non-GAAP Financial Measures and Item 8 of Part I, Financial Statements and Supplementary DataNote 1Description of Business and Accounting PoliciesStock-Based Compensation.
The increase in fulfillment costs in absolute dollars during 2008 in comparison with the prior years relates to variable costs corresponding with sales volume and inventory levels; our mix of product sales; payment processing and related transaction costs, including mix of payment methods and costs from our guarantee for certain seller transactions; and costs from expanding fulfillment capacity.
Fulfillment costs as a percentage of net sales may vary due to several factors, such as payment processing and related transaction costs, including those from our guarantee for certain seller transactions, our level of productivity and accuracy, changes in volume, size, and weight of units received and fulfilled, the extent we utilize fulfillment services provided by third parties, and our ability to affect customer service contacts per unit by implementing improvements in our operations and enhancements to our customer self-service features. Additionally, because payment processing costs associated with seller transactions are based on the gross purchase price of underlying transactions, and payment processing and related transaction costs are higher as a percentage of revenue versus our retail sales, our sales by our sellers have higher fulfillment costs as a percent of net sales.
We expanded our fulfillment capacity in 2008, 2007, and 2006 through gains in efficiencies and increases in leased warehouse space. This expansion was designed to accommodate greater selection and in-stock inventory levels and meet anticipated shipment volumes from sales of our own products as well as sales by third parties for which we provide fulfillment services. We periodically evaluate our facility requirements as necessary.
We direct customers to our websites primarily through a number of targeted online marketing channels, such as our Associates program, sponsored search, portal advertising, e-mail campaigns, and other initiatives. Our marketing expenses are largely variable, based on growth in sales and changes in rates. To the extent there is increased or decreased competition for these traffic sources, or to the extent our mix of these channels shifts, we would expect to see a corresponding change in our marketing expense or its effect.
Marketing costs increased in absolute dollars in 2008 compared to 2007 and 2006, due to increased spending in variable online marketing channels, such as our Associates program and sponsored search programs.
While costs associated with free shipping are not included in marketing expense, we view free shipping offers and Amazon Prime as effective worldwide marketing tools, and intend to continue offering them indefinitely.
Technology and Content
We seek to efficiently invest in several areas of technology and content including seller platforms, web services, digital initiatives, and expansion of new and existing product categories, as well as technology infrastructure so that we can continue to enhance the customer experience, improve our process efficiency and support our infrastructure web services. See Overview above for a discussion of how management views advances in technology and the importance of innovation. We expect spending in technology and content to increase over time as we continue to add employees to our staff and add technology infrastructure.
For the years ended 2008, 2007, and 2006, we capitalized $187 million, $129 million, and $123 million of costs associated with internal-use software and website development. Amortization of previously capitalized amounts was $143 million, $116 million, and $86 million for 2008, 2007, and 2006.
A significant majority of our technology costs are incurred in the U.S. and most of them are allocated to our North America segment.
General and Administrative
The increase in spending in general and administrative in 2008 compared to 2007 and 2006 is primarily due to increases in payroll and related expenses, and professional service fees.
SFAS No. 123(R) requires measurement of compensation cost for all stock-based awards at fair value on date of grant and recognition of compensation over the service period for awards expected to vest. The fair value of restricted stock and restricted stock units is determined based on the number of shares granted and the quoted price of our common stock. Such value is recognized as expense over the service period, net of estimated forfeitures, using the accelerated method. The estimation of stock awards that will ultimately vest requires judgment, and to the extent actual results or updated estimates differ from our current estimates, such amounts will be recorded as a cumulative adjustment in the period estimates are revised. We consider many factors when estimating expected forfeitures, including types of awards, employee class, and historical experience. Actual results and future estimates may differ substantially from our current estimates.
Stock-based compensation was $275 million, $185 million, and $101 million during 2008, 2007, and 2006. The increase in stock-based compensation is primarily attributable to an increase in total stock compensation value granted to our employees.
Other Operating Expense (Income), Net
Other operating expense (income), net, was $(24) million, $9 million and $10 million during 2008, 2007 and 2006. The increase in other operating income in 2008 compared to the comparable prior year periods is primarily attributable to the $53 million non-cash gain recognized on the sale of our European DVD rental assets, partially offset by increased amortization of intangible assets. Other operating expense in 2007 and 2006 was primarily attributable to amortization of intangible assets.
Income from Operations
Income from operations was $842 million, $655 million, and $389 million during 2008, 2007, and 2006. The increase in each year is primarily a result of increased revenue and gross profit relative to operating expenses. Additionally, 2008 includes the $53 million non-cash gain on the sale of our European DVD rental assets included in Other operating expense (income), net.
Interest Expense and Income
The primary component of our net interest expense is the interest we incur on our long-term debt instruments, including our 4.75% Convertible Subordinated Notes, which were no longer outstanding at December 31, 2008, and our 6.875% PEACS, which had a principal balance of 240 million ($335 million based on the exchange rate) at December 31, 2008. Interest expense was $71 million, $77 million, and $78 million, in 2008, 2007, and 2006 with the decline primarily relating to principal reductions of $899 million in 2008 and $300 million in 2006.
Our total debt was $468 million and $1.3 billion at December 31, 2008 and 2007. See Item 8 of Part II, Financial Statements and Supplementary DataNote 5Long-Term Debt.
Our interest income was $83 million, $90 million, and $59 million during 2008, 2007, and 2006. We generally invest our excess cash in investment grade short- to intermediate-term fixed income securities and AAA-rated money market funds. Our interest income corresponds with the average balance of invested funds and the prevailing rates we are earning on them, which vary depending on the geographies and currencies in which they are invested.
Other Income (Expense), Net
Other income (expense), net, consisted of the following:
We recorded a provision for income taxes of $247 million, $184 million, and $187 million, in 2008, 2007, and 2006. The effective tax rate in 2008 and 2007 was lower than the 35% U.S. federal statutory rate primarily due to earnings of our subsidiaries outside of the U.S. in jurisdictions where our effective tax rate is lower than in the U.S. The effective tax rate in 2006 was higher than the 35% U.S. federal statutory rate resulting from establishment of our European headquarters in Luxembourg, which we expected to benefit our effective tax rate over time. Associated with the establishment of our European headquarters, we transferred certain of our operating assets in 2005 and 2006 from the U.S. to international locations. These transfers resulted in taxable income and exposure to additional taxable income assertions by taxing jurisdictions.
Our effective tax rate is subject to significant variation due to several factors, including from accurately predicting our taxable income, the taxable jurisdictions to which it relates, business acquisitions and investments, and foreign currencies. We have current tax benefits and net operating losses relating to excess stock-based compensation deductions that are being utilized to reduce our U.S. taxable income. As such, we expect a majority of our net tax provision to be non-cash.
Effect of Exchange Rates
The effect on our consolidated statements of operations from changes in exchange rates versus the U.S. Dollar is as follows (in millions, except per share data):
Non-GAAP Financial Measures
Regulation G, Conditions for Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures, and other SEC regulations define and prescribe the conditions for use of certain non-GAAP financial information. Our measure of Free cash flow meets the definition of a non-GAAP financial measure. Free cash flow is used in addition to and in conjunction with results presented in accordance with GAAP and free cash flow should not be relied upon to the exclusion of GAAP financial measures. Free cash flow reflects an additional way of viewing our liquidity that, when viewed with our GAAP results, provides a more complete understanding of factors and trends affecting our cash flows. Management strongly encourages shareholders to review our financial statements and publicly-filed reports in their entirety and not to rely on any single financial measure.
Free cash flow, which we reconcile to Net cash provided by operating activities, is cash flow from operations reduced by Purchases of fixed assets, including internal-use software and website development. We use free cash flow, and ratios based on it, to conduct and evaluate our business because, although it is similar to cash flow from operations, we believe it is a more conservative measure of cash flows since purchases of fixed assets are a necessary component of ongoing operations. In limited circumstances in which proceeds from sales of fixed assets exceed purchases, free cash flow would exceed cash flow from operations. However, since we do not anticipate being a net seller of fixed assets, we expect free cash flow to be less than operating cash flows.
Free cash flow has limitations due to the fact that it does not represent the residual cash flow available for discretionary expenditures. For example, free cash flow does not incorporate payments made on capital lease obligations or cash payments for business acquisitions. Therefore, we believe it is important to view free cash flow as a complement to our entire consolidated statements of cash flows.
The following is a reconciliation of free cash flow to the most comparable GAAP measure, Net cash provided by operating activities for 2008, 2007, and 2006 (in millions):
In addition, we provide operating expenses with and without stock-based compensation. We provide this information to show the impact of stock-based compensation, which is non-cash and excluded from our internal operating plans and measurement of financial performance (although we consider the dilutive impact to our shareholders when awarding stock-based compensation and value such awards accordingly). In addition, unlike other centrally-incurred operating costs, stock-based compensation is not allocated to segment results and therefore excluding it from operating expense is consistent with our segment presentation in the footnotes to our consolidated financial statements.
Operating expenses without stock-based compensation have limitations due to the fact that they do not include all expenses primarily related to our workforce. More specifically, if we did not pay out a portion of our compensation in the form of stock-based compensation, our cash salary expense included in the Fulfillment, Technology and content, Marketing, and General and administrative line items would be higher. We compensate for this limitation by providing supplemental information about outstanding stock-based awards in the footnotes to our financial statements. Stock-based compensation programs are an important element of our compensation structure and all forms of stock-based awards are valued and included as appropriate in results of operations.
The Company provided guidance on January 29, 2009 in its earnings release furnished on Form 8-K as follows:
First Quarter 2009 Guidance
These projections are subject to substantial uncertainty. See Item 1A of Part I, Risk Factors.
We are exposed to market risk for the effect of interest rate changes, foreign currency fluctuations, and changes in the market values of our investments.
Information relating to quantitative and qualitative disclosure about market risk is set forth below and in Item 7 of Part II, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of OperationsLiquidity and Capital Resources.
Interest Rate Risk
Our exposure to market risk for changes in interest rates relates primarily to our investment portfolio and our long-term debt. All of our cash equivalent and marketable fixed income securities are designated as available-for-sale and, accordingly, are presented at fair value on our consolidated balance sheets. We generally invest our excess cash in investment grade short- to intermediate-term fixed income securities and AAA-rated money market funds. Fixed rate securities may have their fair market value adversely affected due to a rise in interest rates, and we may suffer losses in principal if forced to sell securities that have declined in market value due to changes in interest rates.
The following table provides information about our current and long-term cash equivalent and marketable fixed income securities, including principal cash flows by expected maturity and the related weighted average interest rates at December 31, 2008 (in millions, except percentages):
The following table provides information about our current and long-term cash equivalent and marketable fixed income securities, including principal cash flows by expected maturity and the related weighted average interest rates at December 31, 2007 (in millions, except percentages):
At December 31, 2008, we had debt of $468 million primarily associated with our 6.875% PEACS, which is due in 2010. The fair value of our debt will fluctuate with movements of interest rates, increasing in periods of declining rates of interest and declining in periods of increasing rates of interest.
There was no amount of the 4.75% Convertible Subordinated Notes outstanding at December 31, 2008. Based upon quoted market prices, the fair value of the 4.75% Convertible Subordinated Notes was $1.1 billion at December 31, 2007 (outstanding principal of $899 million). The fair value of the 6.875% PEACS was $332 million at December 31, 2008, and $358 million at December 31, 2007 (outstanding principal of 240 million).
Foreign Exchange Risk
During 2008, net sales from our International segment accounted for 47% of our consolidated revenues. Net sales and related expenses generated from our international websites, as well as those relating to www.amazon.ca (which is included in our North America segment), are denominated in the functional currencies of the corresponding websites and primarily include Euros, British Pounds, and Japanese Yen. The functional currency of our subsidiaries that either operate or support these websites is the same as the corresponding local currency. The results of operations of, and certain of our intercompany balances associated with, our internationally-focused websites are exposed to foreign exchange rate fluctuations. Upon consolidation, as exchange rates vary, net sales and other operating results may differ materially from expectations, and we may record significant gains or losses on the remeasurement of intercompany balances. For example, as a result of fluctuations in foreign exchange rates during 2008, International segment revenues increased $131 million in comparison with the prior year.
We have foreign exchange risk related to foreign-denominated cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities (foreign funds). Based on the balance of foreign funds at December 31, 2008 of $1.7 billion, an assumed 5%, 10%, and 20% negative currency movement would result in fair value declines of $85 million,
$170 million, and $335 million. All investments are classified as available for sale, as defined by SFAS No. 115, Accounting for Certain Investments in Debt and Equity Securities. Fluctuations in fair value are recorded in Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss), a separate component of stockholders equity.
We have foreign exchange risk related to our intercompany balances denominated in foreign currency. Based on the net intercompany balances at December 31, 2008 of $150 million, an assumed 5%, 10%, and 20% strengthening of the U.S. Dollar in relation to these foreign currencies would result in losses of $5 million, $15 million, and $30 million, recorded to Other income (expense), net.
We have foreign exchange risk related to our 6.875% PEACS, which have an outstanding principal balance at December 31, 2008 of 240 million ($335 million, based on the exchange rate as of December 31, 2008). Due to fluctuations in the Euro/U.S. Dollar exchange ratio, which we cannot predict, our remaining principal debt obligation under the 6.875% PEACS since issuance in February 2000 has increased by $99 million as of December 31, 2008. Based on the outstanding 6.875% PEACS principal balance, an assumed 5%, 10%, and 20% weakening of the U.S. Dollar in relation to the Euro would result in additional losses of approximately $17 million, $35 million, and $65 million, recorded to Other expense (income), net. Additionally, we have not hedged our interest payments under our 6.875% PEACS to protect against exchange rate fluctuations. Assuming the U.S. Dollar weakens against the Euro by 5%, 10%, and 20%, we would incur $1 million, $2 million, and $5 million additional annual interest expense due solely to fluctuations in foreign exchange rates.
See Effect of Exchange Rates for additional information on the effect on reported results of changes in exchange rates.
As of December 31, 2008, our recorded basis in equity investments was $90 million. These investments primarily relate to equity-method investments in private companies. We review our investments for impairment when events and circumstances indicate that the decline in fair value of such assets below the carrying value is other-than-temporary. Our analysis includes review of recent operating results and trends, recent sales/acquisitions of the investee securities, and other publicly available data. The current global economic climate provides additional uncertainty. Valuations of private companies are inherently more difficult due to the lack of readily available market data. As such, we believe that market sensitivities are not practicable.
Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data
INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
Report of Ernst & Young LLP, Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
The Board of Directors and Stockholders
We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of Amazon.com, Inc. as of December 31, 2008 and 2007, and the related consolidated statements of operations, stockholders equity, and cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2008. Our audits also included the financial statement schedule listed in the Index at Item 15(a)(2). These financial statements and schedule are the responsibility of the Companys management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements and schedule based on our audits.
We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. An audit also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.
In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of Amazon.com, Inc. at December 31, 2008 and 2007, and the consolidated results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2008, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Also, in our opinion, the related financial statement schedule, when considered in relation to the basic financial statements taken as a whole, presents fairly in all material respects the information set forth therein.
As discussed in Note 1 to the consolidated financial statements, the Company adopted FASB Interpretation No. 48 Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes, effective January 1, 2007, and FASB No. 157 Fair Value Measurements, effective January 1, 2008.
We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), the effectiveness of Amazon.com, Inc.s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2008, based on criteria established in Internal ControlIntegrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission and our report dated January 29, 2009 expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.
/s/ Ernst & Young LLP
January 29, 2009
CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOWS
See accompanying notes to consolidated financial statements.
CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS
(in millions, except per share data)
See accompanying notes to consolidated financial statements.
CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS
(in millions, except per share data)
See accompanying notes to consolidated financial statements.
CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF STOCKHOLDERS EQUITY