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2018年05月02日16:27 来源:小站整理
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Corporate ambitions

Amazon’s empire

The world’s most remarkable firm may eventually be threatened by its own success

AMAZON is an extraordinary company. The former bookseller accounts for more than half of every new dollar spent online in America. It is the world’s leading provider of cloud computing. This year Amazon will probably spend twice as much on television as HBO, a cable channel. Its own-brand physical products include batteries, almonds, suits and speakers linked to(分词定语)a virtual voice-activated assistant that can control, among other things, your lamps and sprinkler. 亚马逊是一家不同寻常的公司。美国在线消费每增加一美元,就有一多半给了(视角转换)这家曾经的图书销售公司。它是世界领先的云计算供应商。今年亚马逊在电视上的花费可能会是有线电视频道HBO的两倍。公司自有品牌的实体产品包括电池、杏仁、西装以及音箱。这种音箱与虚拟语音助手相连接,可以控制你的台灯、洒水器等装置。

Yet Amazon’s shareholders are working on the premise前提that it is just getting started. Since the beginning of 2015 its share price has jumped by 173%, seven times quicker than in the two previous years (and 12 times faster than the S&P 500 index). With a market capitalisation of some $400bn, it is the fifth-most-valuable firm in the world. Never before has a company been worth so much for so long while making so little money: 92% of its value is due to profits expected after 2020. 不过亚马逊的股东们对其估值的假设是这家公司才刚刚起步。自2015年初至今,它的股票价格已经上涨了(别老increase)173%,比之前两年快了7倍(比标准普尔500指数快了12倍)。它的市值约4000亿美元,位列全球第五。以前从来没有哪家公司能维持这么高的市值这么久却只赚很少的钱:它的市值有92%来自于2020年以后的预期盈利。

That is because investors anticipate both an extraordinary rise in revenue, from sales of $136bn last year to half a trillion over the next decade, and a jump in profits. The hopes invested in it imply that it will probably become more profitable than any other firm in America. Ground for scepticism does not come much more fertile than this: Amazon will have to grow faster than almost any big company in modern history to justify its valuation. Can it possibly do so? 这是因为投资人既盼望其收入猛增,销售额能从去年的1360亿美元涨至十年后的5000亿美元,也期待着利润飙升。寄托在它身上的希望暗示着亚马逊可能会变得比美国任何一家公司都更赚钱。对这些期盼的怀疑最有力的依据是:为了证明它的市值合理,亚马逊的增长将必须快过现代历史上几乎所有的大公司。它能做到吗?

It is easy to tick off some of the pitfalls. Rivals will not stand still. Microsoft has cloud-computing ambitions; Walmart already has revenues nudging $500bn and is beefing up online. If anything happened to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and boss, the gap would be exceptionally hard to fill. But the striking thing about the company is how much of a chance it has of achieving such unprecedented goals. 要列出(别老give/take)几个隐患来非常容易。对手不会坐以待毙。微软在云计算上野心勃勃;沃尔玛的营收已经逼近5000亿美元,并且正在加强在线业务。如果亚马逊的创始人和老板杰夫·贝索斯(Jeff Bezos)遇到什么不测,要填补这一空缺将格外困难。然而这家公司引人注目的一点就是它有多大可能达成这些前所未有的目标。

A new sort of basket-case

This is largely due to the firm’s unusual approach to two dimensions of corporate life. The first of these is time. In an era when executives routinely whinge about pressure to produce short-term results, Amazon is resolutely focused on the distant horizon. Mr Bezos emphasises continual investment to propel its two principal businesses, e-commerce and Amazon Web Services (AWS), its cloud-computing arm.


这主要是因为该公司对企业生命的两大方面有着非同寻常的态度。其一是时间。在这个时代,高管们一贯都会抱怨要创造短期业绩的压力太大,而亚马逊却毅然着眼于长远的未来。贝索斯重视持续投资以推动其两大主要业务——电子商务和它的云计算部门Amazon Web Services(AWS)。

Basket的意思就是"篮子"。比如说,要是一个人在一次事故中失去了四肢,他就变得毫无能力来料理自己的生活,只能让人家把他放在一只篮子里抬来抬去。这种毫无能力和希望的情景就是basket case的意思。Basket case经常被用来形容那些很穷的国家,它们的人民饥寒交迫,毫无希望。有的时候,basket case也是指那些老是亏钱,即将倒闭的企业。我们来举个例子吧:I'm really worried - our company is losing so much money these days that if things don't get better in the next two months we'll be a basket case and have to go out of business. 这个人说:我真是非常担心,我们公司这些日子亏损了那么多钱,要是在今后两个月里情况没有好转的话,我们就彻底没有希望,只好倒闭了。——喵大歪楼

In e-commerce, the more shoppers Amazon lures, the more retailers and manufacturers want to sell their goods on Amazon. That gives Amazon more cash for new services—such as two-hour shipping and streaming video and music—which entice more shoppers. Similarly, the more customers use AWS, the more Amazon can invest in new services, which attract more customers. A third virtuous circle is starting to whirl around Alexa, the firm’s voice-activated assistant: as developers build services for Alexa, it becomes more useful to consumers, giving developers reason to create yet more services. 在电子商务方面,亚马逊吸引的顾客越多,就会有越多的零售商和制造商想在亚马逊上销售它们的产品。这给了亚马逊更多的现金去提供新服务,例如两小时送达以及流媒体视频和音乐,而这又吸引了更多顾客。与此类似,越多客户使用AWS,亚马逊就能在新服务上投入越多,进而吸引更多客户。第三个良性循环则是围绕该公司的语音助手Alexa展开:有了开发者为Alexa设计服务,它对消费者来说就越来越有用,开发者继而就有理由去创造更多的服务。

So long as shareholders retain their faith in this model, Amazon’s heady valuation resembles a self-fulfilling prophecy. The company will be able to keep spending, and its spending will keep making it more powerful. Their faith is sustained by Amazon’s record. It has had its failures—its attempt to make a smartphone was a debacle. But the business is starting to crank out cash. Last year cashflow (before investment) was $16bn, more than quadruple the level five years ago.只要股东们对这一模式保持信心,亚马逊令人兴奋的估值就会像一个自我应验的预言。公司将可以一直花钱,而它的支出也会不断让它变得更强大。支撑股东信心的是亚马逊的业绩。它曾经失败过,制造智能手机的尝试便是个灾难。但是公司正开始大量产生现金。去年的现金流(投资前)为160亿美元,比五年前的四倍还多。

So long as shareholders retain their faith in this model, Amazon’s heady valuation resembles a self-fulfilling prophecy. The company will be able to keep spending, and its spending will keep making it more powerful. Their faith is sustained by Amazon’s record. It has had its failures—its attempt to make a smartphone was a debacle. But the business is starting to crank out cash. Last year cashflow (before investment) was $16bn, more than quadruple the level five years ago.如果说亚马逊对投资时间期限的态度非同寻常,那么它对公司经营的广度也是如此。如其年报所述,公司目前以及未来可能的竞争对手包括物流公司、搜索引擎、社交网络、食品制造商和“各种各样的实体、数字和交互式媒体”的制作商。如此之广的跨度更像是一个企业集团而不是一个零售商,这愈加让亚马逊的股价看起来虚高:股市通常会对股价打一个“企业集团折扣”来反映它们的低效。

Many of these services support Amazon’s own expansion and that of other companies. The obvious example is AWS, which powers Amazon’s operations as well as those of other firms. But Amazon also rents warehouse space to other sellers. It is building a $1.5bn air-freight hub in Kentucky. It is testing technology in stores to let consumers skip the cash register altogether, and experimenting with drone deliveries to the home. Such tools could presumably serve other customers, too. Some think that Amazon could become a new kind of utility: one that provides the infrastructure of commerce, from computing power to payments to logistics.这些服务中的很多都有助于亚马逊自身和其他公司的扩张。一个明显的例子是AWS,它既为亚马逊也为其他公司的运营提供动力。不过亚马逊还向其他卖家出租仓库。它正在肯塔基州建造一个价值15亿美元的空运中心。它正在门店测试新技术,让消费者完全跳过到收银台结账的环节,它还在尝试用无人机送货到家。这些工具也很可能会服务于其他客户。有些人认为亚马逊也许会成为一种新型的公用事业,提供从云计算能力、支付到物流的商务基础设施。

A giant cannot hide

And here lies the real problem with the expectations surrounding Amazon. If it gets anywhere close to fulfilling them, it will attract the attention of regulators. For now, Amazon is unlikely to trigger antitrust action. It is not yet the biggest retailer in America, its most mature market. America’s antitrust enforcers look mainly at a firm’s effect on consumers and pricing. Seen through this lens, Amazon appears pristine. Consumers applaud it; it is the most well-regarded company in America, according to a Harris poll. (AWS is a boon to startups, too.)



But as it grows, so will concerns about its power. Even on standard antitrust grounds, that may pose a problem: if it makes as much money as investors hope, a rough calculation suggests its earnings could be worth the equivalent of 25% of the combined profits of listed Western retail and media firms. But regulators are also changing the way they think about technology. In Europe, Google stands accused of using its clout as a search engine to extend its power to adjacent businesses. The comparative immunity from legal liability of digital platforms—for the posting of inflammatory content on Facebook, say, or the vetting of drivers on Uber—is being chipped away.但随着亚马逊的发展,对它影响力的担忧也在增长。即便是从通常的反垄断角度来看,这也会是一个问题:如果它像投资人所希望的那样赚得盆满钵满,粗略算下来,它的盈利将相当于西方所有上市零售公司和媒体公司总盈利的25%。但监管机构同时还在改变它们对科技的看法。在欧洲,谷歌遭到指控,有人认为它利用自己作为搜索引擎的影响力来扩展其他业务。数字平台原本相对而言享有更多的法律责任豁免——比如在Facebook上发布煽动性内容或是审核优步司机这类事件上,但这种特权如今也在逐渐削弱。

Amazon’s business model will also encourage regulators to think differently. Investors value Amazon’s growth over profits; that makes predatory pricing more tempting. In future, firms could increasingly depend on tools provided by their biggest rival. If Amazon does become a utility for commerce, the calls will grow for it to be regulated as one. Shareholders are right to believe in Amazon’s potential. But success will bring it into conflict with an even stronger beast: government.亚马逊的商业模式也会促使监管机构转换思路。投资者看重亚马逊的增长更甚于盈利,这让掠夺性定价愈发具有诱惑力。在未来,企业可能会越来越依赖其最大竞争对手所提供的工具。如果亚马逊真的成为一个商务公用事业,将其作为这样一种事物来进行监管的呼声就会加强。股东相信亚马逊的潜力,这一点没错。但成功会把它推向与另一头更强大的猛兽对抗:政府。




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