What happened

Shares of MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI) gained 95.3% in 2019, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The e-commerce and payment-processing company crushed the broader Latin American stock market thanks to strong engagement on its platforms and to sales-and-earnings performance that came in significantly ahead of expectations in most quarters.

^SPLAC Chart

^SPLAC data by YCharts

MercadoLibre's business continued to display impressive growth across 2019 despite substantial currency headwinds, with strong momentum for gross merchandise volume on its e-commerce platform and fantastic growth for Mercado Pago. Shares are now up roughly 457% over the last five years. 

A miniature shopping cart filled with packages on top of a laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

The table below shows MercadoLibre's revenue and adjusted income from operations for the four quarters that it reported across the 2019 calendar year:

Quarter Revenue Revenue Growth YoY Income (Loss) From Operations Income (Loss) From Operations in Prior-Year Quarter
Q4 2018 $428 million 19.5% ($800,000) ($64.6 million)
Q1 2019 $437.8 million 47.6% $10.1 million ($29.4 million)
Q2 2019 $545.2 million 62.6% ($12.5 million) ($28.2 million)
Q3 2019 $603 million 69.7% ($81.93 million) ($11 million)

Data source: MercadoLibre. YoY = year over year. 

The company's sales growth also looked substantially more impressive on a currency-adjusted basis, as it was facing significant headwinds on that front in its core Argentinian and Brazilian markets. Factoring out the adverse foreign-exchange impact, MercadoLibre's sales would have grown 61.8% year over year in the fourth quarter of FY 2018. Currency-adjusted year-over-year sales growth for the first, second, and third quarters of FY 2019 was 92.9%, 102.1%, and 90.5%, respectively.

For the nine-month period ending Sept. 30, sales came in at $1.62 billion -- up roughly 60% year over year. At the end of the September quarter, the company's total number of registered users had climbed roughly 23% year over year to hit 306 million. 

Now what

MercadoLibre's impressive rally has continued in 2020, with shares up roughly 17% in the year's trading so far.

MELI Chart

MELI data by YCharts

MercadoLibre's earnings performance came in significantly ahead of the market's expectations for the first three quarters that it reported in calendar 2019, but its final quarterly report in the year showed a loss that was much bigger than analysts had projected. The bolder-than-expected red ink stemmed from increased spending on technology and customer acquisition.

It looks as if the spending push will continue in the near term, based on management's comments about the importance of improving MercadoLibre's overall customer experience and building its payment-processing ecosystem. Bigger losses in the short term shouldn't be a problem so long as the company continues to deliver impressive growth and lay the foundations for continued expansion. 

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