What happened

Shares of Latin American e-commerce star MercadoLibre (MELI 0.87%) were climbing the charts again last month after the company delivered an impressive first-quarter earnings report, showing off promising growth in its payments division.

According to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, the stock finished May up 18%, propelled by the strong earnings report at the beginning of the month as the chart below shows.

MELI Chart

MELI data by YCharts.

So what

MercadoLibre blew past estimates on the top and bottom lines in the quarterly report. The company said revenue jumped 47.6%, or 92.9% in constant currency, to $473.8 million, easily beating expectations for $416 million.  On the bottom line, the e-commerce specialist also surprised to the upside, posting a profit of $0.13 a share, much better than the analyst consensus at a loss of the same amount and up from a loss of $0.29 the year before.

A man holding a smartphone with a picture of a shoe on it.

Image source: Getty Images.

MercadoLibre's payment business, anchored by the MercadoPago platform, was the standout performer in the quarter -- with its currency-neutral total payments volume up 82.5% to $5.6 billion. That easily eclipsed the marketplace business, which had currency-neutral revenue growth of 26.6% to $3.1 billion.

MercadoLibre's results were especially encouraging considering the challenges that a number of Latin American countries are facing, including Argentina, where it's headquartered and whose currency has collapsed over the past year.

CFO Pedro Arnt said he was "very pleased" with the results, adding, "Our Marketplace business showed great resiliency, our Payments business is gaining traction in its online to offline efforts, and our Shipping efforts continue growing the size of our managed network."

Now what  

What was most impressive about the quarter may have been growth in off-platform payments, which nearly tripled to $2.5 billion in currency-neutral terms, showing that initiatives like MercadoPago Point, which allows brick-and-mortar merchants to accept credit cards, is taking off, giving the company another avenue of growth outside of its marketplace.

Following another strong earnings report in February, MercadoLibre shares are now up 94% year to date. Though the company is only minimally profitable today, there are a lot of reasons to think the stock's momentum could continue, most of all the massive opportunity in Latin American e-commerce.