The race to be the first $1 trillion company has Apple Inc. (AAPL) as heavy favorite. With a current market cap of $834 billion, and nearly $200 billion more valuable than second place Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL), parent company of Google, it's hard to see anyone catching the California-based tech giant. However, Stamford-based MKM Partners believes if Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) is willing to continue its spending spree and take on more risk it has the potential to grow to astronomical levels. "Our detailed scenario analysis implies that AMZN could exceed a $1.6 trillion valuation over the next 7-8 years," Rob Sanderson of MKM said in a note to clients.
MKM has a price target of $1275 for Amazon, which is at the higher end of the $1155 average price target of 37 analysts, according to FactSet data. That is a 17 percent increase from the September 12 closing price of $982 a share.
A bold call, yes. But maybe not a bad one.
What Could Stop Amazon?
Amazon has been on a tear of late, and the Jeff Bezos train is showing no signs of slowing down. Year-to-date shares of Amazon are higher by 28.8 percent, and after a string of new ventures and acquisitions, the question is: what can stop Amazon?
The first hiccup could come with an overall market correction or sustained sell-off. As equity markets continue to make all-time highs, this seems unlikely, but the number of skeptics is growing. Citing geopolitical tension, the failing Trump trade, or a pure valuation argument, the cases run from a 10 percent correction to a 20 percent bear market. John P. Hussman argues the S&P 500 could fall 60 percent in the coming years. (See also: S&P 500 Could Fall 60%: Hussman.)
Could Amazon be broken up for fear of anti-competitive behavior soon after it reaches $1 trillion in market cap? NYU Professor Scott Galloway who correctly predicted Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, recently laid out why he believes Amazon will be the first trillion dollar company. He notes that through a growing streaming business, and its dominance in cloud services, Amazon is positioned to be the biggest company in the world. "By 2020 Amazon will be our first trillion dollar market cap company," Galloway said.
But this is where it ends Galloway says; officials will come down on the e-commerce giant when they realize Amazon is "destroying jobs faster than we can recreate them."
All that being said, government intervention is unlikely, but if any company is on the public sector's radar, it's Amazon.
Finally, while Amazon is stepping all over its competitors, it may have to look in its rearview mirror in the coming years. China's e-commerce giant Alibaba, often referred to as the "Amazon of China," has yet to push its services into the U.S. market. While there are hurdles, both logistically and politically, a move into the U.S. by the Jack Ma led conglomerate will no doubt give Amazon a reason to think twice. (See also: Alibaba Makes Inroads Into Mexico.)
How will it get there?
Firstly the math. With a current market cap just under $500 billion and 480 million in outstanding shares, all things being the same, Amazon's share price would need to trade above $3300 a share. However, share buybacks, acquisitions, stock splits and much more dictate that the valuation won't be that simple. The question is, what does Amazon have to do to get to $1.6 trillion, or even $1 trillion.
In addition to its streaming and cloud services growth, Galloway believes that Amazon will eventually take over Apple as the leader in the hardware industry, saying the Amazon Alexa was the most innovative product of 2016-2017, beating out the Apple Watch.
In addition, the market could be under estimating the importance of Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods. As the biggest consumer sector, Amazon's seamless entry into grocery, coupled with its established brand, customer base, and storage facilities makes it a natural leader of the sector's tech disruption. In fact, the results are already showing. In early September, just months after the acquisition, Whole Foods slashed prices, which saw customer traffic rise by 25 percent, according to Foursquare Labs. The price cuts were predominantly in the organic produce sector, which is often criticized as being over-priced.
All this being said, the meteoric rise of Amazon is one of the great 21st-century success stories. But even as it continues to step all over competing industries it is going to take more than a couple of acquisitions and a continuing stock market rally to push it above the $1 trillion mark, let alone be the first there.
And if Amazon does reach $1 trillion, Jeff Bezos will no doubt stand alone at the top of the world's rich list.