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Why MercadoLibre Stock Is a Smart Buy Right Now | The Motley Fool

MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI) is the most popular online marketplace and digital payments platform in Latin America, which happens to be the fastest-growing region of the world in terms of e-commerce sales. Not surprisingly, long-term shareholders have made bank on this investment, as the stock price is up 485% over the last three years.

Even so, e-commerce and digital payments are still in the early days of adoption, and MercadoLibre has established a strong competitive position. In this Backstage Pass video, which aired Sept. 14, 2021, Motley Fool contributor Brian Withers shares why he is still excited about this tech company.

Brian Withers: I’m going to talk about MercadoLibre. For those who know me, you will not be surprised. It turned out when we were prepping for the show, everybody picked one of their regional e-commerce favorites, and nobody picked Mercado. I was like, sign me up. [laughs]

I was trying to provide you a little bit different information today. Here’s some slides from its investor presentation it does every quarter. They have 140 million active users, a little bit different than the 500 million that we talked about with JD. But that number has grown every single time that they have published it. And I like this piece here down on the right. “We are the leading technology company in developing e-commerce and payment solutions.” They didn’t say, “We’re the leading e-commerce company.” They said, “We’re the leading technology company,” and I’m going to get back to that.

Huge population in Latin America, 638 [million] — considerably more than the U.S. They have more internet users in Latin America than there are in this population in the U.S., and actually, the online shopper number is really close to what the U.S. is, in around 200 million. They have 18 countries that they serve, but they don’t serve all of their suite of offerings in all the countries, and I’ll show you that.

This has been the business model for a long time. They started out focused on e-commerce, and like many of the other regional e-commerce plays, realized very quickly that they needed to have a payment solution because much of the commercial transactions in Latin America was cash. They had to develop a way for people to pay for goods online. That’s what this Mercado Pago is over here, and they have Mercado Envios, which is shipping. Think of Fulfillment by Amazon, same deal. Mercado Credito, this helps both sellers get loans as well as cash advances for buyers. A little bit of potentially buy now, pay later opportunity. Mercado Shops is similar to Shopify, and it makes it easy for businesses in the region to set up their own web page within the MercadoLibre marketplace. We talked about payments here, and then a Publicidad here is advertising. They are also making money from advertising on the site. Lots of stuff going on here.

Here are the 18 countries on the left that MercadoLibre serves. The top three countries, which make up 62% of the population of the region, makes up 92% of the revenue. At one point, this was 95%, 96% or even more, so they’ve worked to broaden their revenue to different geographies throughout Latin America. You can see here’s the population in millions. It’s a little bit of a diminishing returns here as you get to smaller countries and more geographically spread out. But the e-commerce marketplace is available in every single region of the 18 regions.

Now, Mercado Envios, whether they have think of warehouses and forward fulfillment and things like that, it’s in six different countries. Most recently, Chile and Colombia and Uruguay have been added. And I want to say these top five that they have free shipping, if you order more than $25 worth. That’s another way that they are becoming more sticky.

Fintech is available in one more country, it’s also available in Peru. And then Mercado Credito is available in the six places that have shipping, which make sense. The revenue for these three countries is growing at 90% year-over-year rate in the most recent quarter. Pretty impressive. But look at this 8% of revenue in these other countries, it’s growing at 166%. So still from a small base, but the revenue growth in these regions is really big.

Then we’ll look at it from a vertical standpoint. These two count for revenue in its e-commerce space, and that’s about two-thirds of the revenue growing at almost triple digits. And then the fintech space is about a third of the business and it’s growing at stellar rates as well. Any way you cut this thing is really big growth rates, really big opportunity, even in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. I know in Brazil and Mexico, it’s doubling its fulfillment presence this year in those two countries and becoming even more deeply embedded with its shipping and fulfillment engines and hiring tons of people to help with its fulfillment business.

This is an interesting little slide. All of these acquisitions that it’s made over the years, and there were a couple that they made that aren’t even on this slide. But over time, it’s been fairly acquisitive, and these have been small enough to where they haven’t had to report the amount it was. This DeRemate was bought from eBay. I want to say it was the key auction site in Brazil, one of the countries, Brazil or Argentina. Then these classifieds. Think of your old newspaper classified service or the Craigslist stuff, and they’ve added to those based on these specific sites. One Logistics, there’s another logistics acquisition, but this was the big one.

Then look at all of these down here. Think of all of this as software tech whatnot. I encourage you, check out this article. I was shocked when I looked at the amount that MercadoLibre spends on its technology, its IT. All of these companies that it bought also came with tech professionals along with the company, and they’ve kept most of these people. What they’ll end up doing is partnering with one of these companies and then seeing how agile they are and if they would be a good fit with MercadoLibre brand. They do a try-and-buy, and then if they do well, they add them to the software suite. It has grown its information technology and product development piece about 10x over the last eight years. When they go back and say they’re a tech company, I told you, there’s a lot of evidence that supports that.

Amazing revenue growth, just tremendous. Look at this, almost double in the past year. The other thing that’s happened, see this line, it’s called take rate up to 19%. This is for every GMV, gross merchandise value, for every dollar sold on the website, MercadoLibre is now capturing $0.19 of it in services, fulfillment, advertising, you name it. Not only has the revenue grown, but they’ve been able to provide more value-added services for their sellers and buyers. Then over here, TPV stands for total payment volume. This is what they sold on the platform, $7 billion worth of goods, but with their payment services, more than double, so more than right about $10.5 billion of it is off-platform purchases. Their payments are being accepted around in local stores and restaurants and gas stations, and you name it. There’s tons of growth levers. You can continue to grow the e-commerce space in all the Latin American markets. They continue to invest in their mobile business, they’re working to expand their mobile business.

One of their most recent acquisitions was drop-off and pickup locations to help with that last-mile delivery piece. You can see all of these different things both on the fintech side and the e-commerce side that the company has tons of room to grow, even though it’s been in business since 2004. Certainly, a well-run company with lots of opportunity ahead.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.


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