It might seem like an odd premise to write an article about stocks that are better long-term investments than eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) after the company crushed its recent Q4 earnings report.
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However, stepping back further, the fact remains that eBay has essentially tracked the Nasdaq's performance over the past decade, a period during which e-commerce as a category truly came into its own; see Amazon.com's 2,000% return over the past 10 years as Exhibit A.
Said more directly, while eBay has seen some nice momentum in its business of late, several companies offer investors more compelling opportunities to invest in the ongoing e-commerce revolution. Let's briefly examine two such candidates: Latin American e-commerce leaderMercadolibre (NASDAQ: MELI) and small business e-commerce platform Shopify (NYSE: SHOP).
If imitation is the best form of flattery, then investors interested in eBay should love Mercadolibre. For those unfamiliar with the company, Mercadolibre is the leading e-commerce platform in Latin America, counting 160 million registered usersspread across 18 countries.
Better still, the continued expansion of the region's evolving e-commerce landscape should help fuel above-average growth at Mercadolibre. Researcher eMarketer estimates that e-commerce sales across Latin America will rise from $57 billion in 2016 to $85 billion in 2019. Even by 2019, though, eMarketer expects e-commerce to constitute 3.2% of the region's total retail sales, far below the 8.4% level seen in the U.S. today. All of this is to say that Mercadolibre's growth opportunity is truly impressive.
Like many leading growth companies, though, participating in Mercadolibre's continued rise won't come cheaply. The company sports current and future price-to-earnings ratios of 68 and 47, respectively. Also of note, the company earns virtually all of its sales in various Latin American currencies, but it reports its financial results in U.S. dollars. Volatility in Latin American economies and exchange rates certainly make currency risk a constant risk factor for the company. However, for tech investors looking to add some international exposure to their portfolios, Mercadolibre remains a best-of-breed option.
Image source: Shopify.
If there were such a thing as e-commerce-as-a-service, online shopping service Shopify would be one of its top providers. Started in 2004 because of the dearth of suitable e-commerce software, the company continues to attract companies small and largeto power its prodigious growth. Here's how its customer and sales growth have exploded over the past several years:
Data sources: Shopify Investor Relations, Fool.com.
The company's guidance suggests it will gross $337 million in sales in 2016;its actual full-year 2016 financial results are due February 15. Wall Street sees Shopify's sales coming in at $388 million, as a quick point of comparison. Either way, the company's value proposition is clearly resonating with an increasingly large number of merchants worldwide, a trend that also figures to continue. For the year ahead, analysts see Shopify sales rising 47% in 2017 to $562 million.
In many ways, Shopify resembles a younger, smaller version of eBay. That's appealing because it means, as the financial evidence supports, that it enjoys meaningful future growth that investors today can benefit from. However, as a smaller company, it comes with some familiar risks.
The first is competition. Though Shopify has clearly established a powerful presence in its market, other e-commerce platforms like Wix.com, BigCommerce, and more are largely vying for the same customers and provide relatively similar services. The second concern is valuation. Though Shopify continues to grow quickly, the company is shockingly expensive, and I say that as a growth investor who looks at high-priced tech stocks all day, every day. Though it remains unprofitable, Shopify trades at 14 times sales and 386 times operating cash flows. As such, investing in Shopify should be seen as a long-term bet on the value of its service and the size of its potential market.
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