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Amazon’s market value tops Microsoft for first time, ranking it third in world

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 14, 2018

A package from Amazon Prime is loaded for delivery on a UPS truck in New York on May 9, 2017. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
A package from Amazon Prime is loaded for delivery on a UPS truck in New York on May 9, 2017. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
By Matt Day Seattle Times

SEATTLE – In Amazon’s latest conquest, the company has toppled Microsoft to become the third most valuable company in the world.

The online retailer’s stock closed up $36.54 a share, or 2.6 percent, at $1,451.05 on Wednesday, giving the company a market capitalization of $702.5 billion, enough to top its Seattle-area neighbor for the first time.

Microsoft’s market value stood at $699.2 billion, after its shares rose $1.40, or 1.6 percent, to $90.81 Wednesday.

Combined, all other public companies based in Washington state have a market capitalization of only about $400 billion. Chicago-based Boeing has a market value of $205 billion.

Amazon trails only Apple, worth $849.2 billion, and Google parent Alphabet, at $746 billion, among publicly traded companies as of Wednesday’s close.

Amazon has nearly quadrupled in value over the past three years, a surge that made founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos the world’s richest man, displacing his Medina neighbor, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

The gains came as investors bet that the company would continue its track record of grabbing an ever larger share of commerce. Amazon’s revenue has grown by at least 19 percent each year for the past decade, a record unmatched among companies with sales of more than $1 billion.

It took Amazon 21 years to close the gap between an upstart online bookseller and one of the world’s dominant high-tech firms.

Amazon.com shares surged on their first day of public trading in May 1997, valuing the company at $560 million, according to S&P Capital IQ.

Microsoft then was a $140 billion giant, dominant in the fast-growing personal computer market and in command of an ample war chest to fund forays into new technologies. The Redmond company’s market capitalization would crest at $614 billion, a record for any company at the time, at the height of the dot-com boom in December 1999.

The company’s value tumbled by nearly two thirds in the next year amid a broad rout in technology shares, and would remain stagnant for much of the ensuing decade as the Justice Department pursued an antitrust case against Microsoft and as upstarts like Google outflanked the firm on the internet.

Amazon, which made deep cuts to survive the bursting internet bubble, spent the same period laying the groundwork for its domination of online retail, expanding into new categories of goods and building a logistics network designed to speed delivery to consumers.

Microsoft has been on an upswing of late – buoyed by a cloud-computing business that has emerged as the main challenger to market-leading Amazon Web Services – and given investors confidence that the company can survive declining personal computer sales. Share’s are up about 180 percent since chief executive Satya Nadella took the helm in February 2014.

But Amazon’s horizons are broader than Microsoft’s, analysts say.

In addition to AWS, which is challenging incumbent technology builders like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, Amazon boasts a growing grocery footprint after the purchase of Whole Foods Market, a warehousing network it is profitably renting to third party merchants, and a blossoming devices and smart home business in its Alexa software and Echo devices.

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