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5 Things That Drove Shopify's Blockbuster Earnings

By Danny Vena - Feb 13, 2020 at 7:48AM

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The e-commerce service provider keeps raising the bar higher.

Expectations were high going into Shopify's (SHOP 5.04%) fourth-quarter financial report. The stock was one of the standout performers of 2019, soaring 187% for the year, so investors were already expecting good things. Shopify delivered all of that and more.

There was a lot to like in the company's earnings report, and while most eyes were on the top- and bottom-line performances, there were other metrics that contributed to Shopify's better-than-expected results. Here are five areas that will be of keen interest to investors that helped drive the company's blockbuster quarter.

The Shopify logo etched in glass on a table next to a plant

Image source: Shopify.

1. Accelerating revenue growth

Shopify's fourth-quarter revenue climbed to $505.2 million, up 47% year over year and accelerating from 45% growth in the third quarter. The results were far higher than analysts' consensus estimates and the high end of management's guidance, which both topped out at $482 million.

The gains were driven by subscription revenue that grew 37% to $183 million, maintaining its torrid pace from Q3. The shocker came from the merchant solutions segment, which jumped to $322 million, up 53% year over year, primarily the result of an increase in gross merchandise volume (GMV), which represents the value of all the goods and services sold on its platform.

Monthly recurring revenue (MRR), which locks in a stream of predictable income and is the lifeblood of any subscription-based business, also shined, up 32% compared to the prior-year quarter.

2. A surprise profit

Shopify has long focused on expanding its business and foregoing the lure of short-term profit. This quarter, the bottom line turned positive, even in the face of heavy investment. The company produced net income of $0.77 million, resulting in earnings per share (EPS) of $0.01, a nice reversal from the $1.5 million and penny-per-share loss it generated in the year-ago quarter.

Things were even rosier on an adjusted basis. Shopify reported non-GAAP net income of $50 million, resulting in EPS of $0.43, up 70% and 59% year over year, respectively. EPS also easily surpassed the $0.24 expected by investors.

3. Robust sales on its platform

Shopify had signaled in early December that merchants were thriving on its platform, generating sales of more than $2.9 billion between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, up a whopping 61% versus the same time period last year, with the majority of those sales completed on mobile devices. Those results were a harbinger of things to come.

The company reported gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $20.6 billion, up 47% year over year. Gross payments volume climbed to $8.9 billion, accounting for a record 43% of GMV, up from 41% in the prior-year quarter.

4. Its business is getting bigger -- and stickier

Shopify announced that it will continue to spend to generate future growth, and the growth potential from that spending was on full display. Going into 2020, the company said it will make incremental investments in a number of areas that will reduce pain points for merchants and help increase their sales. CFO Amy Shapero said on the call that 2020 is "clearly a year of heavy investment" for Shopify, but the spending will result in additional merchants flocking to the platform and a further boost to GMV, she added.

One area of keen interest is the recently introduced Shopify Fulfillment Network and the acquisition of inventory control and warehouse management company 6 River Systems, which set the company back $450 million. Shopify previously said it plans to spend more than $1 billion on these facilities in the coming five years, a move that will help merchants get packages to customers faster and easier.

Shopify understands the old adage, "you have to spend money to make money," and investors are increasingly backing the company's play -- particularly in light of its impressive results.

5. Optimistic forecast

Another catalyst for Shopify's run-up in the wake of its earnings report was the strength of the company's forecast. For 2020, Shopify is guiding for revenue in a range of $2.13 billion to $2.16 billion, easily ahead of the $2.11 billion expected by analysts.

The combination of accelerating growth, surprise profit, and robust forecast had the tech specialist's investors celebrating, bidding Shopify shares up more than 10% as of this writing.

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