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Here's the Most Exciting Part of MercadoLibre's Business

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® and Brian Withers – Oct 17, 2021 at 7:07AM

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This company has a dominant e-commerce platform, but that might not be the most promising growth driver.

Often referred to as the "Amazon (AMZN 2.10%) of Latin America," MercadoLibre (MELI 5.12%) operates an e-commerce marketplace that has a dominant presence in several key markets. However, in this Fool Live video clip, recorded on Sept. 29, contributor Matt Frankel, CFP, discusses why the financial technology side of MercadoLibre's business is where the most exciting growth opportunities lie. 

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Brian Withers: I look at MercadoLibre's history, and they have, over time, have quietly bought a bunch of small tuck-in acquisitions across logistics, across marketplace platforms, and across tech companies where they look at maybe a tech company who's building fintech tools or payment services or e-commerce operations and starts to work with them on specific projects, outsources a specific project, and they like what they see, they try and buy, and then they bought a number of these over the years.

They've really built up a very strong tech-focused backbone across MercadoLibre, so I feel like they're very good at finding tech companies and certainly that meet their mission, and I think that's what they're looking for. But so really pleased bringing MercadoLibre to the show, and it took a SPAC to bring them, well, so be it. But I know you're a shareholder or want to be a shareholder.

Matt Frankel: I am.

Withers: OK, so what's your favorite part of the MercadoLibre ecosystem of tools and products?

Frankel: Not the SPAC. I would have to say it's Mercado Pago. Not only is it the fastest-growing part of their business, I think it has, it's like the PayPal (PYPL 2.16%) and eBay (EBAY 0.47%) dynamics. Whereas PayPal started out as like a subsidiary of eBay, was the other way you paid for your eBay purchases, gradually started to move into other forms of payment. It used to be weird to use PayPal for anything other than eBay. I don't know if you remember that, I certainly do.

Now, no one even thinks about eBay when you say the name PayPal. I see this as an earlier-stage PayPal. But if it was a subsidiary of Amazon, not eBay. But can you imagine if PayPal had its outside-of-eBay dominance that it does right now, while still getting virtually 100% of Amazon's payments to process? I could see it growing into something like that in the Latin American market. I don't see them spinning it off anytime soon as another difference. They might, down the road, but I don't see it anytime soon. That's definitely the most exciting part of the business in my mind.

Withers: Yeah, I did a bit on Mercado Pago and MercadoLibre yesterday, I think, and the number that sticks in my head is $10 billion worth of off-payment platform payments, last quarter, just last quarter. Yeah, so that's exciting part of the business for sure.

Frankel: PayPal does about 30 times that just for context.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Matthew Frankel, CFP owns shares of MercadoLibre. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, MercadoLibre, and PayPal Holdings. The Motley Fool recommends eBay and recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1,920 calls on Amazon, long January 2022 $75 calls on PayPal Holdings, short January 2022 $1,940 calls on Amazon, and short October 2021 $70 calls on eBay. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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