Square (SQ 2.67%) has been one of tech's biggest winners over the past two years. The mobile payments specialist soared 186% last year. The stock is up another 102% in 2018, even after correcting sharply in recent weeks.
Momentum has been on Square's side. It has rattled off seven straight quarters of accelerating revenue growth, revving up from a 21% rate to 51% in that span of time. Square has survived the onslaught of tech-savvy rivals and the bitcoin crash of 2018 to deliver scintillating growth. Square is turning heads now, but sustaining the awe isn't easy on Wall Street. Let's see how the next few years will play out, sizing up what Square's prospects may be in 2023.
It's hip to be Square
There's a meaty asterisk to Square's record third-quarter results. Revenue and adjusted revenue growth may have accelerated during the period, but gross payment volume clocking in 29% higher is Square's weakest year-over-year growth in more than a year.
There were a couple of factors padding Square's top-line spurts. Bitcoin revenue that didn't exist a year earlier accounted for a sizable chunk of Square's third-quarter acceleration on the top line. There's also Weebly and Zesty, which beyond likely being rejected Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs names are the the website builder platform and corporate catering company that Square acquired over the past year. All of the accelerating growth isn't a facade. Subscription and services-based revenue would have still more than doubled without the addition of Weebly and Zesty. Hardware revenue is a small part of the revenue mix at Square, but that line item soared 74% on the strength of new payment terminals and card readers.
Looking out to 2023, we know what Wall Street pros are modeling. Analysts are targeting $6.6 billion in revenue in five years, more than quadrupling off current levels. They also see Square earning $3.46 a share, an even bigger advance than the projected revenue growth. It's hard to argue that Square's priced cheaply at 20 times earnings five years from now, mostly because we know that reality will likely be far better or far worse than that goal.
Square's guidance calls for 45% to 47% in reported revenue growth for the current quarter, possibly the end of an impressive steak of accelerating top-line gains. That's fine. Accelerating growth doesn't last forever. The key for Square's path to keep trouncing the market will be its ability to get merchants to pay more for related services. The more integrated it gets businesses into its ecosystem the harder it will be for them to find a way out. Internally developed offerings and niche acquisitions will dictate Square's success. The stock may not double next year -- or in any of the next five years -- but it has the right ingredients in place to continue beating the market in the long run.