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Amazon's Irish arm books 29pc profit rise

OPERATING profits at the main Irish unit of online retailing giant Amazon.com increased 29pc last year as sales climbed sharply.

Accounts just filed with the Companies Office show that Amazon Data Services Ireland's operating profits increased to €3.15m in 2010. Sales jumped 62pc to €53.6m in the same period.

Based in Seattle, Amazon was established by Jeff Bezos in 1994 starting off as an online bookstore, but soon diversified to product lines of DVDs, CDs, computer software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food and toys.

The success of the company has hit bookshops such as Waterstones and Eason, which have both suffered from falling profitability in recent years.

Dublin-based Eason, which employs more than 1,000 people nationwide, said it would shed some employees as part of its €24m cost-cutting plan over the next three years.

Amazon's Irish operations have two main purposes: a Dublin-based company employing 131 people offers support for the company's websites; while a Cork-based company employing 331 people offers customer support in several languages.

The Dublin company saw pre-tax profits rise 18pc to €1.2m. Operating profits were hit by interest payments of €1.88m last year compared to €1.55m in 2009.

The accounts show that the company had accumulated profits of €3.4m that were part of shareholder funds totalling €16.8m, compared to €7.2m in shareholder funds in 2009.

Staff costs increased by 37pc to €9.3m in 2010 as staff numbers doubled.

Amazon.com is one of a number of US-owned online companies including Google, eBay, Facebook and LinkedIn to have established operations in Ireland despite the downturn in the economy.

The multilingual customer services centre in Cork saw losses increase threefold from €121,123 to €378,085 past year.

The increase in losses came despite a 46pc jumped in profit to €18.7m. Staff costs increased by 35pc from €7.98m to €10.78m as the company hired 100 new people. Established in 2006, the centre at the Cork Airport business park provides customer support to group companies.

Last year, Amazon.com global sales topped $34.2bn.