Amazon’s profit increases 18 percent

NEW YORK — Amazon first quarter profit rose 18 percent as shoppers continued to flock to the online mega retailer to buy goods.

Results beat expectations and shares rose nearly 2 percent in aftermarket trading.

Amazon has long focused on spending the money it makes to grow its business and expand into new areas, from movie streaming to e-readers and even grocery delivery. On Wednesday, it launched Prime Pantry, a grocery delivery service for Prime members And earlier this month, it introduced its first set-top video streaming box called Amazon Fire that sells for $99. Rumors of an Amazon phone have been swirling as well, but nothing has materialized.

“We get our energy from inventing on behalf of customers, and 2014 is off to a kinetic start,” said CEO Jeff Bezos.

While investors have largely given Amazon a pass for focusing on growth and investing rather than turning a strong profit, Amazon has been making some moves lately to strengthen its bottom line. It boosted its Prime 2-day shipping membership program annual fee from $79 to $99 in March to offset higher shipping costs.

Shipping costs rose 31 percent to $1.83 billion during the quarter.

And to entice more people to sign up for the service at the $99 price, which includes its streaming video service, on Tuesday the retailer said it inked a deal with HBO to stream some of its older shows online beginning May 21. The news was a coup for Amazon. HBO has steadfastly refused to license any of its programming to other streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu. In a media call, executives did not give specifics but said renewals were exceeding expectations.

Net income for the quarter rose to $108 million, or 23 cents per share. That compares with net income of $82 million, or 18 cents per share last year. Analysts expected 21 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 23 percent to $19.74 billion from $16.07 billion. Analysts expected $19.42 billion.

In fiscal 2014, the company expects revenue of $18.1 billion to $19.8 billion. Analysts expect $19.01 billion.

In aftermarket trading, shares rose $6.35, or 1.9 percent, to $343.50, after closing the day up nearly 4 percent at $337.15. The stock reached an all-time high of $408.06 on Jan. 22. Since then, it has dropped 17 percent.

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