MELI stock is an e-commerce giant that dominates its country much like Amazon and Alibaba. Lately, it’s been outperforming them both…
We don’t typically cover Argentina stocks, and with good reason. After all, there are only 17 Argentina ADRs (American Depositary Receipts) that trade on major U.S. stock exchanges, and most of them are either very small, wildly underperforming—or both. MercadoLibre stock is neither of those things.
MercadoLibre (MELI) is an Argentine e-commerce company with a market cap of $95 billion. In the last year, MELI stock is up 184%.
Here’s what that looks like on a chart:
Why is MercadoLibre doing so well? For many of the same reasons Amazon.com (AMZN) and Alibaba (BABA) have. It’s an e-commerce giant that dominates the country in which it is headquartered. Actually, MercadoLibre dominates an entire continent, with the largest e-commerce and payments ecosystem in all of Latin America. MercadoLibre has a presence in 18 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. In each of those countries, it’s the market leader in terms of unique visitors and page views.
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Operating revenue increased over 70%.
Gross profit surged 122%.
Net income was up over 60%.
With both an online merchandising and a growing digital payments business, MercadoLibre is almost a hybrid between Amazon and eBay (EBAY) or PayPal (PYPL). As Argentina, and South America as a whole, waits out the virus at home like most of the rest of the world, business has picked up for MercadoLibre the way it has for Amazon and Alibaba.
Sales were up 85% in the most recent quarter, and are expected to improve 67% for the year (full-year earnings results are due out in early February). Though the company has struggled to maintain profitability (much like Amazon until the last few years), that’s about to change: analysts expect the company to earn $1.12 per share in FY 2020, and for EPS to more than double to $2.91 in 2021.
MercadoLibre Stock vs. AMZN vs. BABA
To be sure, the valuation is extremely rich, as MELI trades at 227 times forward earnings estimates. But MELI stock has been expensive for a while, and that hasn’t stopped it from rising. It’s up 445% in the last two years, and 1,791% in the last five years. During that time, the S&P 500 is up 41% and 99%, respectively. Argentina’s benchmark stock market index, the Merval, is up much more than the S&P in the last five years (+389%), but MercadoLibre stock has still more than doubled it.
MELI is rising faster than both AMZN and BABA stock, and its business has way more upside: according to Statista, only about 5% of retail sales in Latin America were online in 2019 (the last full year for which there is data), compared to 36% in China and 11% in the U.S. The market in which MercadoLibre operates is relatively untapped, despite the immense sales growth in recent years.
Thus, it’s reasonable to think MercadoLibre stock will continue to outperform AMZN and BABA, though the sky-high valuation is a bit concerning, and the beta is a touch higher than those other two stocks at 1.63. I’d wait for a pullback of some kind before buying (it currently trades at 1,932, a new all-time high). Long term, however, the trajectory is quite clear.
MELI is essentially a higher-risk, higher-reward version of Amazon or Alibaba. For the more adventurous investor, it’s worth adding to your portfolio once the share price comes down a bit.
Investment analyst and Chief Analyst of Cabot Wealth Daily, Chris Preston brings you all the latest from the investing world. Sign up to get updates and breaking news delivered FREE to your inbox. Get unlimited access to our library of complimentary investing reports.Sign up now!
*This post has been updated from an original version, published in 2020.