The clouds surrounding Amazon.com are thickening.
The pioneering e-commerce company's stock price continues to slide, losing 88 percent of its value since its peak 14 months ago. Half a dozen Wall Street analysts have downgraded the shares. The company's fiercest critic says he expects the Internet retailer to run out of money to adequately fund its operations later this year.
Amazon strongly disagrees with that assessment. "The company has never been in better shape," chief executive Jeff Bezos said in an interview Tuesday. An Amazon spokesman has dismissed Lehman Brothers bond analyst Ravi Suria's math as inaccurate and his conclusion about a liquidity crisis as "silly."
Some of Amazon's vendors say they are past easy reassurance. Some of the publishers, manufacturers and distributors that supply the Seattle company say they are watching its cash levels very closely. Paying equally close attention are their insurance companies, which in some cases are cutting back or becoming unwilling to write policies covering goods delivered to dot-coms, including Amazon.
One electronics distributor is taking steps to protect itself. An executive at this firm said it had stopped shipping to Amazon until it pays its current bill, which is overdue. Like other vendors interviewed for this story, this executive agreed to discuss Amazon only if he and his company were not named.
"We've got the rope very tight on Amazon and all the other e-commerce accounts. We've no idea who's going to stay in business and who isn't," the executive said.
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