When eBay (EBAy) and PayPal (PYPL) split up in July 2015 (with eBay shareholders getting one share of eBay and one share of PayPal) I told myself (and readers) that I wanted to keep PayPal in my long term 50 Stocks Portfolio but would one day sell eBay out of that group.
Well, today I’m keeping PayPal–the stock is up 73.37% since I added it to the portfolio (after the split) and is ahead 83.84% for 2017 to date (as of October 31). The shares were up another 1.98% today.
And tomorrow I’m selling eBay out of this portfolio with a 64.97% gain since I added it to the portfolio back in May 2013. (eBay acquired PayPal in 2002.)
I’m keeping PayPal because it’s showing signs of being a winner in the revolution that FinTech is bringing to the financial sector. And I’m selling eBay because, in the long-term, I really don’t want to own a company that has to compete with Amazon (AMZN).
The group of technologies that are loosely grouped under the FinTech umbrella promise or threaten (depending on your point of view) to set consumers free from the constraints of existing banks and other financial institutions–and set those institutions free from the fees and cash flows that make up their revenue and earnings.
Among the (many) unanswered questions is whether the FinTech revolution will result in a dozen (or probably fewer) new financial leaders–the FinTech equivalent to the FAANG stocks–or whether promising new technologies and technology companies will be gobbled up by existing financial companies in the way that Cisco Systems (CSCO) bought dozens of startups in the networking sector and merged them into the Cisco giant.
Some of the existing financial companies–Visa (V), for example–have decided that the way to lead the financial sector during and after the FinTech revolution is to buy as many of the most promising new companies and their technologies as possible. And then to combine those new technologies with their existing huge customer base.
This is clearly the way that PayPal has decided to move–and so far it seems to be working. In the last few years PayPal has spent roughly $2 billion to purchase Paydiant, Braintree, and Xoom. As part of that acquisition of Braintree PayPal got Venmo, the instant payment app. Venmo handled $7.5 billion in transactions in 2015. In October the company began the full scale roll out of Pay with Venmo with PayPal announcing that Pay with Venmo would be available at over 2 million mobile merchants in the month. All Venmo users will get full functionality and the service will be integrated with all existing PayPal merchants who have the PayPal button on their checkout page with the option to add a separate Venmo button. Simultaneously PayPal is rolling out an Instant Cash service that allows Venmo users to deposit their Venmo balance into their bank accounts in the matter of a few seconds for a $0.25 fee. Without the Instant Cash option, it takes 1-2 business days to deposit the funds to a user’s bank account.
PayPal’s strategy seems aimed at leveraging the company’s strength–it has 184 million active users and 14.5 million merchant users–in online payments and using the technology it has acquired to improve its relatively laggard position at the point of sale. From this perspective, PayPal is a clear beneficiary of the growth in mobile phones as payment devices since it allows the company to leapfrog the payment terminal technology position of current payment leaders.
In the recently reported third quarter the company beat on earnings and revenue and recorded payment volume growth of 31% year over year.
One critical data point to watch is what happens to margins as PayPal increasingly goes up against the huge scale of companies such as Visa and has to cut deals with big retailers (Wal-Mart comes to mind.) So far so good: in the most recent quarter GAAP margins increased by 10 basis points in the first GAAP margin increase since the first quarter of 2016.
In its guidance for 2018, management projected volume growth in the mid-20%s with stable GAAP margins.