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eCommerce Growth Continues In Latin America

Posted on Monday, May 11th 2009

MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI), Latin America’s eCommerce leader, continues on its growth path despite the poor global economy. Recently announced Q1 revenues of $32.3 million were 12% higher than the previous year’s revenue. The company missed the Street’s expectations of $32.9 million. However, EPS of $0.12 exceeded the market’s expectations of $0.10 and represented growth of 140% over the $0.05 earned a year ago.

By segment, Marketplace revenues grew 10.5% to $26.0 million while Payments revenues grew 18.8% to $6.4 million. MercadoLibre saw significant 29% growth in its gross merchandise volume. In local currency terms, volumes grew nearly 41%.

MercadoLibre might not have met analysts’ revenue expectations for this quarter, but I have faith in the Latin American market’s growth. Statistics reveal that only a quarter of the region’s population has broadband access, compared to broadband’s 75% penetration in the United States. Analysts estimate the Latin American e-tailing market will grow a significant 35%-40% in the years to come. Today, MercadoLibre has a mere 6% of the market share. But it is still a leader in the region, with clear potential in this expanding market.

During the quarter, the company added nearly 0.30 million new registered users to its database, recording growth of 20% over the year. The number of total confirmed users at the end of the quarter stood at 35.7 million, up 35% over the year.

I am wondering if eBay is evaluating the acquisition of MercadoLibre in order to get into the Latin American market full steam. The e-commerce giant is working on global expansion, as was evident with its recent acquisition of Korea’s GMarket. Adding MercadoLibre to its portfolio would be a logical next step in this strategy.

The stock slipped nearly 4% after the earnings announcement last week to close at $27.75. Since then, it has dropped further and is oscillating between $24-$25 at the moment, taking its market capitalization down to about $1 billion. With eBay getting ready to spin out Skype, a lot of cash will get freed up, certainly enough to buy their way into Latin America’s growth through MercadoLibre.

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