Amazon (AMZN) is a great company. Its leadership in cloud computing may be even more important than the commanding position it has in e-commerce. Founder Jeff Bezos sets a wonderful example for other CEOs by consistently ignoring both short term results and the "opinion of the street" and, instead, doing the right thing to position Amazon for the future. Examples include Kindle, continued investment in cloud computing, and free shipping as an offensive weapon. I held my Amazon stock and bought more in the great recession. It's been a good investment.
But today I'm selling the last of my stock in the company. Here's why:
- Most importantly, I think Amazon is on the wrong side in the debate over collection of sales tax. Even though the company's legal position that it is not liable for the collection of these taxes in most states is correct, the law will change through either concerted state action or federal legislation, because the states cannot afford to see the sales tax base shrink towards nothing as more and more sales go online. Moreover, Internet merchants can and should compete on a level playing field with brick and mortar stores. Whatever advantage Amazon gets from not collecting sales tax will disappear when the law changes. Amazon shouldn't collect sales tax it isn't currently legally liable for; but, in my opinion, the company should not be taking the hard core attitude towards tax equity that it has pursued so far, and should not count on retaining this particular advantage very long.
- Kindle made the e-book genre, but Kindle will be a distant third in a long term race with Android (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) tablet devices. I'm not ready to give up my Kindle. It is possible that Bezos will, at some point, give Kindles to some customers to increase book sales in this format. Making Kindle readers available free on other devices was a brilliant move but, in the end, I think this battle is between Google and Apple -- and that the proprietary Kindle format for books will be a drag and not an advantage for Amazon.
- Short term, Amazon will suffer from a lack of product because of supply chain disruption in Japan.
- Also short term, the stock market seems unrealistically optimistic in a very uncertain world.