Amazon has become the second company to be valued by Wall Street at $1tn, a matter of weeks after Apple reached the milestone first.
On Tuesday, a rise in the share price of Amazon, which is listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in the US, briefly took it above the trillion-dollar watermark for the first time.
Crossing the $1tn threshold marks the latest chapter in an astonishing story of growth for the company, founded by businessman Jeff Bezos in Seattle in 1994.
Less than 25 years later, Amazon has garnered a major presence in everything from retail, to groceries, to video streaming, helping it rack up revenues of $178bn (£139bn) last year.
Bezos has become the world’s richest man in the process, with a net worth estimated at more than $167bn on Tuesday, according to Forbes.
Amazon went public at $18 a share in 1997 – on Tuesday those shares hit $2,050, pushing the value of the whole company over $1tn. Amazon ended the day valued at $995bn, just short of its new record.
|Amazon’s $1tn valuation marks the latest chapter in an astonishing story of growth for Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man. Photograph: Michael Nelson/EPA
But with rapid growth has come fierce criticism over its attitude to tax and workers’ rights.
The company that started life selling books and CDs online has morphed into a behemoth that now makes much of its money from hosting websites such as Airbnb, Netflix and Unilever. Amazon Web Services is currently the frontrunner for a $10bn contract to provide cloud computing for the US Department of Defense.
Alongside cloud services, Amazon has been growing its own content business, developing TV shows and movies. Last year it bought Whole Foods, the grocery chain, for $13bn as Bezos moved to expand Amazon’s food offering. The company now appears to have targeted the healthcare market as its next big opportunity.The Guardian
Amazon is currently assessing where to build a second headquarters in the US, dubbed HQ2. The massive complex is expected to add 50,000 local jobs, but the winning city also looks sure to burnish Amazon with generous tax breaks.
Amazon was offered $7bn to build its second headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, a cash-strapped city that critics say could easily find better ways of spending the money than giving it in tax breaks to one of the world’s richest companies.
Seattle, Amazon’s home town, has also developed an ambivalent view of the company. Rents in the city have soared, pushing poorer people out, and Amazon lobbied hard to stop the city imposing a tax on large corporations that was meant to tackle growing economic inequality.
Amazon had been vying with Apple to reach the landmark $1tn figure for months but lost out when stock markets responded favourably to Apple’s financial results last month.
Both companies now have a stock market value more than a third of the UK’s annual economic output and larger than the economies of Turkey and Switzerland.