Used Cars in China, PayPal, and the Future of Apple

In this episode of the MarketFoolery podcast, host Mac Greer is joined by analysts Emily Flippen and Jason Moser, who share two stocks they're bullish on, a pair they're bearish on, and two more they're on the fence about. Emily weighs in on Chinese used-car dealer Uxin (NASDAQ: UXIN), J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP), and Stitch Fix (NASDAQ: SFIX). Meanwhile, Jason talks PayPal (NASDAQ: PYPL), Zillow (NASDAQ: Z) (NASDAQ: ZG), and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL).

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Dec. 17, 2018.

Mac Greer: It's Monday, December 17th. Welcome to MarketFoolery! I'm Mac Greer. Joining me in studio, we have Motley Fool analysts Emily Flippen and Jason Moser. Welcome! How are we feeling this Monday?

Jason Moser: Feeling quite rested, and thankfully a little bit drier now. It was a wet weekend.

Greer: So much rain! Emily, can you make the rain stop?

Emily Flippen: I'll do my best, although come Thursday or Friday, I think my powers might wear off. We're expected to get even more rain.

Greer: Unbelievable!

Flippen: Hope nobody's traveling.

Moser: We've already surpassed, this is the wettest year on record for this area since something like 1890.

Greer: It's epic! It was just epic! What I like about it is it gives me an excuse not to do any yard work. Not that I needed an excuse.

Today, we're going to do something a bit different. We're stepping back from the headlines and we're going to do something that we haven't done in a while. We call it "yes, no, maybe so." Here's how it works. Each of you is going to be sharing three stocks. You're going to have a yes stock, a stock that you think will outperform the market over the next three to five years; you have a no stock, a stock you think will probably lose to the market over the next three to five years; and then the maybe stock, the stock your kind of conflicted over, a stock that could go either way.

On that note, let's get going. Emily, what stock are you saying yes to?

Flippen: I'm saying yes to Uxin today. That might sound unfamiliar to a lot of listeners. It's an underfollowed stock. The pronunciation there might be a little different than people are expecting. It's the largest used car dealer in China. I think they're positioned really well. They have a relatively small market cap right now, given their business. This stock was hammered earlier this year. It IPO-ed at $9 a share, went all the way down to something like $3 a share. It's back up close to $9 now.

They have a great partnership now with Taobao. They're selling a lot of cars, granted their losses are increasing. But I think, given the market size, given the fact that they're the largest player and this is definitely going to be an in-demand industry, when you think about the development of the Chinese economy, Uxin is positioned really well to succeed.

Greer: OK, Jason Moser, when you hear "largest used car dealer in China," is there a question there? Is there a concern as an investor? What do you think?

Moser: I wonder at this point in time, historically speaking, used cars have been a huge market forever. Obviously, we're making this transition to electric vehicles, alternative energy vehicles. My question is -- and it's not just to Chinese used car companies, it's any of them is -- what is the ability to incorporate those types of vehicles into their model? What kind of a threat is that trend? I'm assuming that most of their vehicles are traditional, fuel engine.

Flippen: They are.

Moser: That'd be my one question. I just don't know enough about it.

Flippen: I love that question because the Chinese car market is so different than the car market that we have here in the U.S. I think it might be a misconception, when you think about the development of cars. In the U.S., we are moving toward clean energy electric vehicles. And that definitely is a worldwide trend. But when you look at the Chinese market, it's so heavily regulated. You couldn't sell used cars until this century. 15 years ago, you could not sell used cars across the border of China into different provinces. So, there was a huge demand, especially in lower-tier cities, to get access to used vehicles, but there were quite literally none available.

Uxin is completely online, and after these regulations passed that allowed sellers to move a car from one city to the next and sell it between people, it make this huge market opportunity. And there's still such a large demand for lower income people in China, people who are moving up to that middle class level, to get a good, cheap used car.

I think people who are paying top-tier for new cars, that market definitely is going to go electric. And slowly, those electric cars, I imagine, will trickle down through the stream. But the issue with the infrastructure in China is that it doesn't have the support that is needed for electric vehicles yet. Electricity is more expensive on an income basis than in the United States, and people don't have easy charging ports. In fact, the very popular Chinese electric vehicle carmaker, NIO (NYSE: NIO), is quite literally replacing batteries instead of charging them, simply because it's more cost effective for them.

There's a huge difference in these types of car markets. While there is a trend toward electric vehicles, I think Uxin, at least for the foreseeable future, is relatively insulated.

Greer: Have y'all noticed how, in the U.S., at least, you don't hear the term "used car" anymore. It's all about "pre-owned vehicles." I like used car better. I don't want someone to have owned it before me, but I'm fine if they used it.

Moser: White-glove certified, pre-owned... you're right. That's marketing, it's marketing 101, make people feel a little bit better about what they're getting, no matter what it is.

To your point, when we look at a lot of the businesses we cover, we look for competitive advantages. One of those competitive advantages could be in the form of barriers to entry. Clearly, it sounds like there was a tremendous barrier to entry for the used car market for years and years in China. So, the company that has the head start in getting started in that market, that first mover advantage, in many cases, can be all you need. And it sounds like they're pretty tech savvy already as it is.

Flippen: Oh, fingers crossed! [laughs]

Greer: OK, that's Uxin. Jason, which stocks are you saying yes to?

Moser: Well, Mac, you know that I love the payments space a lot. I would be remiss if I did not have one of those payments companies here in the yes column this week. I'm going to go with PayPal.

Greer: I've heard of them.

Moser: Yeah, you've heard of them. I think we've all heard of them. It's a company that has been a good recommendation here in the Foolish universe. It's one that I own personally and probably will continue to add to for many years.

There are a lot of reasons. I think ultimately, when I'm looking for good long-term-style holdings, I'm looking for big market opportunities with the opportunity, also, to grow. And payments is certainly one of those spaces. When you look at it from just a domestic perspective, you consider here, 40% of payments in the U.S. alone are still cash. Globally, that's much, much more. We talk all the time about this move away from cash and toward mobile payments, or just electronic payments, one form or another. PayPal is helping facilitate that in a lot of ways.

It's amazing to think about, PayPal is now a bigger company by market capitalization than American Express. They have now surpassed MasterCard in annual revenue. PayPal's trailing 12-month revenue is more than MasterCard's, which is amazing for me to think about, because MasterCard is essentially twice as big of a company as PayPal is, and Visa is basically three times the size.

I think that what you've got here is a company with a lot of different ways to grow. Not only PayPal. We, of course, know Venmo. While Venmo is not profitable, they are working on ways to monetize that business. I hope they continue to do that methodically, and not try to do it all at once. We know that PayPal also acquired Xoom a little while back, which is my favorite outgoing remittance company. It was just gone too soon.

Greer: [laughs] I just like that you have a favorite outgoing remittance company.

Moser: [laughs] Not everyone does.

Greer: [laughs] That's a cry for help.

Moser: [laughs] When you look at the amount of money that's going through PayPal's networks on an annual basis, it's impressive. It continues to grow.

The nicest thing, I think, about this market, is you're not trying to pick one winner. The payments space truly is a multi-winner space. I think PayPal is poised to be one for some time to come.

Greer: Emily, what's your biggest question about PayPal?

Flippen: I've never really taken the plunge on PayPal for two reasons. The first being that it's a highly competitive space. That's not to say that as a consumer, you can't have numerous forms of payments. But I think, as the form of payment continues to grow, I have lots of options in what I choose to pay with. I've never needed to make a PayPal. I've never been compelled to. So, as an investment, I've never taken the plunge. That's not to say that I don't agree it'll be a great investment over the next year or two or three. But I do think that it's a very competitive space, and that always has given me pause.

The other thing is big security concerns in the industry. PayPal has fallen victim to that in the past. From a consumer perspective, there's a lot of heat right now in that space. If they're not able to at least keep up the perception of great security, then that's going to maybe cause some confidence loss in their core consumer.

Moser: Yeah, there's no question. Security is always going to be top of mind for most people, particularly, I think, older folks these days --

Greer: Why are you looking at me?

Moser: Well, I mean, I really shouldn't necessarily because we're closer to the same age than Emily and I are. But, I do understand. Taking that leap to paying with your phone... for a lot of people, there's a comfort level in knowing what they're doing, and paying with cash sometimes is the ultimate form of understanding there. So, security, I think, is always going to be top of mind.

It's interesting, your point there in using PayPal, and not having used it before. That was one of my bigger hang-ups with it for a long time. I haven't owned PayPal for five years. This is a position I've held for just a couple of years, maybe. I maybe would use it once a year to settle up in a fantasy football league, because it was just easy. But what we've seen quickly here with the proliferation of mobile technology is more and more companies, merchants, small businesses, particularly, are using PayPal and Square and others as a way to settle payments.

The one thing that really opened my eyes to this was we took a trip to the Bahamas this past spring break. We took the girls, went for a week, hung out, and really lived on the local economy. We weren't at a resort. Consequently, we were going to restaurants and local businesses where your option was essentially to pay with cash or, in many cases, now, what these merchants were doing, they would set up email addresses and use PayPal as a form of payment. So, I found myself using PayPal a lot just on that trip alone. It opened my eyes to, maybe it's more than just what I was seeing initially. When you look at it from a global perspective, and the amount of money that is always moving around the globe on a daily basis, it started to make a bit more of an impression on me. I think that's going to continue to grow, and that's why we're seeing companies like Square and Stripe and others continue to invest so much in the space.

Greer: The addressable market, bigger than Jason's fantasy football. OK, that's my takeaway. Emily, let's go to our no stocks here. What are you saying no to?

Flippen: I'm going to say no to JCPenney over the next three to five years.

Greer: You and everyone. [laughs]

Flippen: It must be really shocking. I won't harp on it. With $4 billion in net debt, it's not an acquisition candidate. It's obviously been struggling in the retail space. A lot of people think that it won't exist in three to five years, but I fall on the side of the fence that it will exist. I think JCPenney, as a company, will exist in three to five years. I don't think it's turning into Sears necessarily.

I will say that if they're able to work out their inventory issues, it's a strong free cash flow business, so they could theoretically downsize enough to keep operating at a level that would allow them to do so sustainably if they worked out some of these organizational issues. And with the new CEO, that could be a real possibility.

Do I think it's going to be a market-beater? Of course not. That's why I'm choosing it for my no category. But I do think it will be here.

Greer: Jason?

Moser: If we've seen anything, Sears has defied all logic. I mean, if Sears is still around, I think JCPenney absolutely could still be around. And honestly, while I don't know that the brand carries as much with folks today as it did perhaps when we were growing up, I can't help but wonder if maybe there's not some kind of partnership opportunity out there. Whether it's with Amazon trying to get more into the clothing space, or whatever concept is out there, perhaps there is some value in that geographical footprint, that real estate where they have those physical locations. If anything, one of the stories of 2018 has certainly been that physical retail isn't exactly dead right. It's still alive and doing very well, in some cases. I just wonder if there's some partnership opportunities out there.

Greer: How about Target acquiring JCPenney?

Moser: Who knows?

Greer: More and more, you're seeing Targets in malls, as well.

Flippen: I would love that, if Target acquired JCPenney and just replaced JCPenneys with more Targets.

Greer: Yes, I think that's right. I like that. OK, Jason, what are you saying no to?

Moser: I'm going to say no to Zillow. I really used to think a lot of this business. I felt like there was more potential than what they've exploited to date. When we talk about large and growing market opportunities, obviously, the real estate market here domestically alone is tremendous.

Greer: Do you have a Zestimate for that?

Moser: [laughs] Well, let me see here! Let me get back to you on that. I do think they've not done a very good job of taking this business beyond what it ultimately still is today, which is basically just real estate advertising. To me, hands down -- this is coming from someone who's done some house searching here recently -- I think they do have the best experience out there, as far as going on to an app on your phone and looking at different properties. The problem is taking the relationship from that point forward. What we ultimately did when we were selling a home and buying a home was connecting with a real estate agent that we already knew. Then, we would get our information from their internal platform, which was based on the MLS and didn't really mess with Zillow at all.

I was reading Zillow's most recent quarterly report, and this statement really took me back. They noted that they are getting ready to enter a period of transformational disruption. It's something to the extent where they feel like they're in the middle of this transformation for the business. To me, the business was founded on this disruption to begin with. So, now that they're having to disrupt again, I can't help but wonder if they feel like maybe they were not investing their dollars in the wisest fashion up to this point.

Greer: Is that a euphemism? When you say, "transformational disruption," that can be exciting. Like, wow! Or, that can be a, [whispering] "Wink, our business model's not very good."

Moser: To your point there on the latter, it's reasonable to at least wonder. It's still not profitable. It's not like they're out there lighting the world on fire with profits. The stock price today is taking a very big leap of faith that they're going to make these wise bets in the future. If you look at their balance sheet today, half of their total assets consist of goodwill, which essentially means that they've been relying on this acquisition strategy to date in order to grow. They're going to have to make acquisitions in the future to grow. And this latest foray into the instant offers thing, where they're ultimately basically just trying to flip homes, I don't think they have any competitive advantage in doing that. As a matter of fact, they may not even be that good at it. That's not like a new market. There are people out there doing that all the time.

I feel like they don't have their eye on the ball. And to me, the stock price today still doesn't make any sense for a business that has not yet demonstrated any meaningful path to profitability.

Greer: Emily?

Flippen: And this is a stock that's dependent on the housing market. We've had a great run-up the past four or five years in our housing market. And the company's still not profitable. If you can't succeed in conditions where the housing market is expanding like it has been, it begs the question of, what makes this stock, what makes this company, a winning company in the future? And to me, the concern is that any downturn would make an already unprofitable company that much more concerning from an investing perspective.

Moser: Yeah. I feel like we were asking that question five years ago when this company was on the radar. The statement that they opened that letter with says, "Zillow Group has entered a period of transformational innovation." That's what I thought they were doing five years ago!

Greer: I like that. I'm going to start using that phrase.

Moser: And they're just doing it now? It brings up more questions than I feel like there are answers for.

I don't think this is a bad company. I just don't know that they're necessarily focusing on what really matters. And I'm very suspect as to the actual opportunity that they're trying to capitalize on.

Greer: OK, so, you're lowering your Zestimate for Zillow.

Moser: That is a fair assumption.

Greer: Let's move on to our maybe stocks. I think this may be my favorite part of this show. These are stocks that we're conflicted over. We don't quite know. We may be ambivalent about them. Emily, how about a stock that you can't quite decide?

Flippen: This might take some listeners as a surprise, because I have been quite the bear on this stock for a while, but Stitch Fix. For a long time, Stitch Fix, in my opinion, was priced for the idea that the entire market was going toward boxed clothes delivery. And I was just convinced, there's no way that this many people have this much disposable income and willingness to spend this much on their clothes and get this amount every single month. It just didn't make sense to me.

But we've seen recently, thanks to slower than expected customer acquisition growth, that the stock's been really destroyed. I don't have an answer for this, but it left me wondering, at what price is Stitch Fix a good buy to me? In my opinion, they don't have to take over the market like some people expect they do. They don't have to be Blue Apron, like some people expect they do. They can have a small but loyal base of customers that spend a lot on their clothes and continue to be profitable in that direction over the long-term.

I'm still not pushing myself to buy any of this stock because I find myself so conflicted. It feels like it's either going to succeed or fail. But at some point, I guess the price could be right.

Greer: You mentioned their loyal base of customers. I know this will shock you. I'm not one of them.

Flippen: Me neither.

Greer: I think it's fair to say I'm probably not known for my fashion. Is that fair, Jason? You've known me for a while.

Moser: I would say that you and I together probably have about the fashion sense of my dog.

Greer: OK, good. That's probably not fair to your dog. But, you mentioned loyal base. And we were talking with our very own Dan Boyd before the show. Dan is a Stitch Fix customer. Dan, sell me on Stitch Fix.

Dan Boyd: Oh, man! It's really easy! It's really easy! When you sign up for Stitch Fix, you don't have to go shopping anymore. I don't know about you, Mac, but I hate going clothes shopping. I would rather spend my time doing just about anything else. So, for me, Stitch Fix is a great opportunity to avoid having to go into a store, deal with a parking lot, deal with other drivers on the road, deal with trying on clothes in one of those little booths, the changing rooms, all that stuff, I hate all of it. Stitch Fix comes to your house, you try on the clothes in your house.

Greer: Hold on, they come to your house? How does this work? Do I have to take measurements? That seems like a lot of work.

Boyd: Well, you probably know what size clothes you wear normally, right?

Greer: Eh...

Boyd: You have a general idea?

Greer: I know the Costco sizes.

Moser: [laughs] Depending on that.

Boyd: Well, if you have the general idea, when you sign up, you fill out a questionnaire on their website of what sizes you are.

Greer: Handsome? Very handsome?

Boyd: Very handsome is where you want to go, certainly. But, they send you stuff, and you can fine-tune it as you get more stuff. They send me a box a month, five items a month. Last month, I didn't pick any because I didn't like any of them. But the month before, I think I picked four out of the five.

Greer: That's so impressive! Do you get comments? Do people say, "Wow, that's a really nice shirt?"

Boyd: Well, my fiancée is a huge fan of this because it means that once a month, there's a little Dan Boyd fashion show going on in our apartment.

Moser: Hey, now!

Boyd: Again, I don't really like going clothes shopping So, if this is the only source of new clothes, then it's the only fun she gets, as far as picking out clothes and stuff for me.

Moser: But here's the question. Does Stitch Fix allow you to exploit your sartorial nature? Or are you really just fitting your wardrobe to whatever Stitch Fix sends you? If you're like me, you probably don't care a whole heck of a lot at this point about what you're wearing. I don't profess to have any real style whatsoever.

Greer: Is it transformational?

Boyd: I don't know what sartorial means. I'm going to take it as disrespect -- no, no.

Moser: It basically just means that you have good style, you're into fashion, you've got good taste.

Boyd: Well, let's not talk me up too much. I'm wearing a T-shirt and jeans at work right now. To me, it's more of a convenience thing, this is the whole thing. I just don't like going shopping. If I can avoid it, it's great. And the prices aren't wild for Stitch Fix. You go to Joseph A. Bank or Nordstrom or anything --

Greer: They're having a sale this weekend. [laughs]

Boyd: Joseph A. Bank does a crazy amount of sales. But a lot of the times, their shirts are going to be $100. And that's just way too much for me, especially with these name brands.

Flippen: You're getting a name brand, though. If you pay $100 for a shirt, you're getting a name brand. For me, the hang-up with Stitch Fix is, there's somebody out there who's paying $60 for a shirt that has no name brand. You don't know the quality of it, and you're doing it repeatedly over the months? The great thing about Nordstrom and Joseph A. Bank is, yeah, they're expensive, but you know what you're getting.

Boyd: I mean, that's a good point. But for me, personally, I don't really care about the brand. If the shirt looks nice, I'll buy the shirt if it's not unreasonably priced.

Greer: I think that's pretty compelling. I'm intrigued. I don't know if I'm going to do Stitch Fix because I had a bad experience with Blue Apron. As you mentioned earlier, Emily, I lump them together. It's not fair. I know, food, apparel.

Moser: Honey, I don't think these pants are quite done.

Greer: [laughs] OK, Jason, it's your maybe stock. What are you going with?

Moser: I'm going to probably respond to an email or to in regard to this one. I'm maybe opening myself up. Apple. I know people will probably say, "What?! Blasphemy!" I've been sitting here all year, trying to figure it out. Apple is not a stock I personally own. It's one that I've always wished I did, but I never bought it. And now, this year, it's starting to strike me that perhaps, there's an opportunity opening up. But, is it an opportunity really, Mac? I don't know! And that's why it's my maybe.

When you look at the way the company has gotten to where it is today, clearly, the iPhone has really led the way. I think they have, more or less, hit a wall with what they can do with phones. I say this with a new iPhone XR in my pocket.

Greer: Quit bragging.

Moser: Listen, I'm not bragging. I like it alright, but I'll tell you, I made the leap from the iPhone 6 to the XR, and by far and away, the best thing about it is the fact that I have a phone that can now make it through the entire day on one charge. Everything else is just incremental. And in some cases, the user experience actually is worse. I think the Apple Pay experience is not as good. I'm not really the biggest fan of the face ID. And I think that the bigger screen actually makes it a little bit more difficult to maneuver because you have to get your thumb lower down on the screen there. And I'm not saying you should be texting or searching your phone while you're driving. No matter where you are, if you're trying to one-hand it, it's a little bit different than it used to be.

Greer: So, what's the opportunity? That all sounds very negative.

Moser: I'm glad you asked that question, because this is where you have to weigh the two. I think that Apple is making a good move in trying to become more of a services business. Tim Cook on the most recent call was really talking more about that. While the market wanted to focus on the fact that they're not going to be reporting units sold anymore when it comes to phones and iPads and computers, they're going to tell us a little bit more about how the Service business is growing. Not only the revenue that it's bringing in, but the cost of that revenue. We're talking about services and all that stuff that's going through the App Store, and Music and Video and whatnot.

I like Tim Cook as a leader. I appreciate his belief and focus on privacy and really on the consumer. I trust him. I think the move to service, like I said, is good. I agree with their wearables strategy, and not trying to bet it all on one thing like the Watch, but rather have a portfolio of wearables, like the earpods and the Watch and whatever else they come up with.

But to me, is it enough to make up for what is going to be now this slowing down and almost stagnant iPhone? I don't know that they're going to be able to witness the same kind of pricing power that they did in the past. You've got one thing playing against the other. It's clearly a business that's not going anywhere. I love the company. I love my iPhone. I'm just wondering, is this a market-beater over the next three to five years? My daughters have owned this stock since 2013. It's about a 150% winner for them, outpacing the market a little bit. I don't know if the next five years hold that same good fortune. I'm still noodling over it.

Flippen: I'll just add that in my experience, a lot of time, consumer preference and consumer experience doesn't correlate with consumer actions. A great example of that is EA. When they started adding micro-transactions to a lot of their games, gamers were so upset. "Boycott EA!" Then, what happens? Micro-transaction revenue goes through the roof. So, to an extent, the negative things you were talking about with your new iPhone XR, yeah, maybe consumers don't like having to reach further down. Maybe they don't necessarily like all the functionality of it. But ultimately, you still bought one, right?

​Moser: ​ Sure!

Flippen: When you get your next phone, would you say that you're probably going to buy an iPhone in the future, too?

Moser: Yeah, most likely. They've got me in on the phone ecosystem probably until the day I die. I'm just too lazy to try to learn a new one.

Flippen: So, I would argue that, while I'm not sure they reached the peak of their ability to develop the iPhone, they don't need to.

Moser: It's not iPhone-specific. I think the smartphone in general has probably hit a wall. Remembering globally that Android is still the dominant operating system. You do have that to think about, as well. I like the fact that Apple is reaching out and partnering with companies like Amazon to offer their music platform over their devices and everything. That's why it's one that's weighing on my mind. I feel like the good outweighs the questions. But by the same token, is that money better off somewhere else? I just don't know yet.

Greer: OK, we'll see. Just to recap here, Emily, your yes stock was Uxin. Your no stock was JCPenney. The maybe stock was Stitch Fix. Jason, your yes stock was PayPal. Your no stock was Zillow. And your maybe stock was a little company called Apple.

Moser: That is correct!

Greer: Emily and Jason, thanks for joining me!

Moser: Thank you!

Flippen: Thank you!

Greer: As always, people on the show may have interest in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. That's it for this edition of MarketFoolery. This show is mixed by Dan Boyd. I'm Mac Greer. Thanks for listening! We'll see you tomorrow!

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Emily Flippen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Jason Moser owns shares of Amazon, Apple, Mastercard, PayPal Holdings, Square, and Visa. Mac Greer owns shares of Amazon, Apple, Costco Wholesale, and Square. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Apple, Mastercard, PayPal Holdings, Square, Stitch Fix, Zillow Group (A shares), and Zillow Group (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Visa and has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple, short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple, short January 2019 $82 calls on PayPal Holdings, and short January 2019 $80 calls on Square. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale, Electronic Arts, Nordstrom, and Uxin Ltd. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.