|Perhaps since CNBC is so adamant about pimping Bezos' dog-and-pony show today on-air, they might be interested in this:|
Bezos Snubs Amazon Critic
by Craig Bicknell
3:00 a.m. Sep. 19, 2000 PDT
Ever since Lehman Brothers' analyst Ravi Suria ripped Amazon.com in a June research report, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has repeated one word like a mantra.
"Hogwash," he says, day after day, in response to nagging questions about Suria's report, which predicted that Amazon.com could run into a money crunch in early 2001 unless it drastically reduces its cash-burn rate. "Complete, absolute, pure, unadulterated hogwash."
Despite Bezos' curt dismissals, Suria's prediction has contributed to a punishing summer for Amazon.com's (AMZN) stock, and it continues to dog Amazon's chief wherever he sets foot.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that when Amazon hosts its annual analyst meeting Tuesday morning, Suria won't be there. He was conspicuously left off the list of invitees.
"I'm the only prominent analyst who wasn't invited to the meeting," said Suria, who seemed both surprised and annoyed. "Bezos talks more about me than any other analyst, but now he doesn't even invite me? I would've thought he'd like a chance to answer some questions. But then, Amazon never gives you straight answers anyway."
Asked why Suria was left off the invitation list, Amazon spokeswoman Lizzie Smith responded: "I can't go into our selection process. It wouldn't be appropriate. But like any engagement, there's a capacity issue, and we have to limit the number of people who can attend."
Still, she said, even though Suria wasn't expressly invited, "he would be welcome" if he still wanted to come.
"It's a little weak to forward an invite through a third party the day before an event," Suria responded. "It's a perfect example of the way Amazon's management operates. They don't want anybody asking them tough questions."
Analyst meeting aside, Suria stands firmly behind his June prediction, despite a recent uptick in Amazon's share price and assurances from a number of Amazon analysts -- including an equity analyst at Lehman Brothers, where Suria is a debt analyst -- that Amazon's cash position will be solid in 2001. After dipping below $30 per share in the weeks following Suria's report, Amazon's stock has climbed back into the low $40s.
"Nothing has changed," he said. "We still expect them to have cash problems in the first quarter of 2001."
Pending competition from German media giant Bertelsmann, which recently said it would spend billions of dollars to fuel its online sales, has only made Amazon's long-term position more perilous, Suria said.
"Bertelsmann announced it will spend several times as much cash as Amazon has (in its entire coffers)," he said. "They've just upped the ante for the Christmas season."
Despite Suria's apparent confidence in his June call, he bristles at the mention of Bezos' "hogwash" refrain. "All he says to my report is, 'Hogwash, hogwash,' but he won't get into any of the numbers," Suria said.
"If he feels it necessary to beat me up every time he speaks, so be it. But you know what? Time will tell. Time will tell."
Meanwhile, Suria said, big-time fund managers and institutional investors continue to shower him with praise.
"The buy side absolutely loves me. They say, 'Even if the call turns out to be wrong, somebody needs to be doing this kind of research, somebody needs to ask these questions.'"
But little love comes Suria's way from the analysts who represent Wall Street's investment banks (many of which currently handle, or hope in the future to handle, Amazon.com and other online retailers' banking business).
"Most of the sell-side analysts, from Blodgett on down the line, think I'm an idiot," Suria said.