Amazon Demands One More Thing From Some Vendors: a Piece of Their Company

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Suppliers that want to land Amazon.com Inc. as a client for their goods and services can find that its business comes with a catch: the right for Amazon to buy big stakes in their companies at potentially steep discounts to market value.

The technology-and-retail giant has struck at least a dozen deals with publicly traded companies in which it gets rights, called warrants, to buy the vendors’ stock in the future at what could be below-market prices, according to corporate filings and interviews with people involved with the deals.

Amazon over the past decade also has done more than 75 such deals with privately held companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. In all, the tech titan’s stakes and potential stakes amount to billions of dollars across companies that provide everything from call-center services to natural gas, and in some cases position Amazon among the top shareholders in those businesses.

The unusual arrangements offer another window into how Amazon uses its market heft to increase its wealth and clout. The company has been under growing scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers over its competitive practices, including with companies it partners with.

While the deals can benefit the suppliers by locking in big contracts, which can also boost their share prices, executives at several of the companies said they felt they couldn’t refuse Amazon’s push for the right to buy the stock without risking a major contract. The deals in some cases also give Amazon rights such as board representation and the ability to top any acquisition offers from other companies.

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