Can Square Keep Going After Last Week's 20% Pop?

By Rick

One of last week's biggest winners wasSquare (NYSE: SQ), soaring 20.46% after posting encouraging quarterly results. Square stock also benefited from a few analysts who boosted their opinions on the investment. Square shareholders are starting to realize there's life after Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX).

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Square's net revenue clocked in at $451.9 million for the fourth quarter, 21% ahead of the prior year's holiday-containing quarter. Analysts were settling for just $449.9 million on the top line. Adjusted net revenue soared 43%, and that's perhaps a more telling metric, as it subtracts transaction-based revenue from Starbucks and transaction-based costs from total net revenue.

Starbucks and Square ended their partnership late last year. The deal may have been great for Square's visibility, but it was another story on Square's bottom line. The mobile payments specialist's healthy growth sans Starbucks is very encouraging for the platform's long-term viability.

Gross payment volume rose 34% to $13.7 billion. Square keeps adding new merchants to its platform, and it's making back those seller acquisition costs in four to five quarters. With its positive dollar-based retention rate, Square is making strides to officially break into the black.

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Square continues to struggle with positive earnings, but adjusted EBITDA checked in at a record $30 million for the quarter. After several periods of deficits on that front, Square has come through with three consecutive quarters of positive adjusted EBITDA. Square's net loss of $0.04 a share was roughly half the red ink analysts were modeling, and Square's adjusted earnings were positive at $0.05 a share.

Image source: Square.

Wall Street likes a Square meal

Analysts were encouraged by the report. Mark Palmer at BTIG upgraded the stock from "neutral" to "buy." He sees the better-than-expected holiday quarter as confirmation of Square's pathway to profitable growth. He now has a $20 price target on the shares.

Craig-Hallum analyst Bradley Berning boosted his price target on the shares from $9 to $15.50, but he's sticking to his neutral rating on the stock. Susquehanna is initiating coverage of Square with a "positive" stock rating.

Square has been a wild stock since going public at $9 in late 2015. It priced well below theinitial $11 to $13 price range that underwriters were gunning for, and the stock could still be had in the single digits as recently as this past summer. The stock's been a market beater since then, more than doubling off last year's lows.

Growth will continue even as Starbucks fades in Square's rearview mirror. Square sees total revenue of $440 million to $452 million for the first quarter and $2.09 billion to $2.15 billion for all of 2017, marking growth of 19% and 24%, respectively, at the midpoint of those ranges. Square sees adjusted revenue growth of 31% for the current quarter and 30% for the entire year, and profitability on an adjusted basis for both chunks of time. There will always be long-term concerns about Square's role competing in a world of better-financed titans, but for now Square is doing more than enough for the bulls to get the last laugh after the bears talked down the initial enthusiasm for its late 2015 IPO.

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Starbucks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.