MercadoLibre Stock: Next Stop, $330?

Piper Jaffray sees one of this year's hottest stocks continuing to light it up in 2018.

Rick Munarriz
Rick Munarriz
Dec 13, 2017 at 10:02AM
Technology and Telecom

Shares of MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI) hit another all-time high on Tuesday, and at least one Wall Street pro sees the Latin American online marketplace speedster going even higher. Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson is boosting his price target on the stock from $268 to $330, a move likely to lead to even higher highs as MercadoLibre barrels through the $300 mark.

Olson remains confident in the dot-com darling's improving fundamentals, even arguing that the stock remains relatively inexpensive despite nearly doubling this year. MercadoLibre stock has soared 89% in 2017 through Tuesday's close. Naturally, Olson is sticking to his overweight rating on the shares.

A MercadoLibre logo in a heart at a developers conference.

Image source: MercadoLibre.

Making the grade 

Olson's encouraging price target boost matters. Less than two months ago, he was lowering his price goal from $287 to $268. His channel checks were showing decelerating listings growth for MercadoLibre's third quarter, and he went on to lower his estimates in light of the company's increased marketing push and the impact of free shipping. 

This cautious stance proved to be the wrong place to be, as the stock would go on to soar 13% the day after posting another monster quarter in early November. Revenue soared 61% in the third quarter, fueled by a 56% spike in items sold through its site and a 70% surge in transactions completed using its proprietary MercadoPago payment platform. As big as MercadoLibre has become -- and we're talking about a marketplace that is now averaging more than $1 billion in monthly gross merchandise volume, topping $3 billion for the first time in its latest quarter -- it's showing no signs of slowing. Revenue has risen 74%, 59%, and 61% in its last three quarters, respectively.

Things won't always be as rosy as they feel right now. It took nearly three months for the stock to topple the all-time highs it set this summer. MercadoLibre slid in October when Brazil's Valor Economico financial newspaper reported that Jeff Bezos was making a bigger push in Latin America. Clearly, the stock has overcome those fears after its blowout quarter, and now we find an analyst who had reservations about his bullishness two months ago gushing about the stock's compelling value at this point.

Calling MercadoLibre "relatively inexpensive" may seem odd at this juncture. Olson's price target would find the stock fetching more than 100 times next year's consensus earnings forecast. However, you can't judge a growth stock merely by its earnings multiple. MercadoLibre's market leadership and stunning growth momentum matter. There was no shortage of valuation hounds calling the stock ridiculously overpriced a year ago, and we've seen it more than double. The worrywarts weren't right then, and they're probably not now.