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What would you say if I told you I knew a way to travel back in time and buy yourself a few shares of eBay
"Take a hike, bud."
OK, fair response. But what if I told you instead that I know an eBay lookalike. One that's just gone public, and that has at least a chance of generating the same kind of profits that eBay has returned over the past decade.
OK. I see I've got your attention this time. So allow me to introduce you to MercadoLibre
Since its IPO in August at $22 per share, MercadoLibre hasn't looked back. Soaring as high as $80.74 per share in December, the stock offered early investors a 267% profit over just four months of investment. Fortunately for those of us who didn't invest before the opening bell, the stock has given back a lot of its early gains over the past few weeks. At today's price, it's up a mere 68% from where it began -- and if this stock performs anything like eBay did, this is only the beginning.
Back up a step. Avocado-what?
No, "MercadoLibre." The Argentinean eBay. Here, let me quote directly from the report compiled by a scouting party that the Fool's international investing newsletter, Motley Fool Global Gains, dispatched to Buenos Aires in November:
The sign on the door at MercadoLibre's office reads, "MercadoLibre en asociacion con eBay." The well-known Internet auctioneer is both a major investor in MercadoLibre and a partner when it comes to sharing best practices...
It's a beautiful business with high margins, little capital investment requirements, and significant network effects.
And, because it's the clear market leader in Brazil (59% of revenue), Mexico (15%), Argentina (15%), and the rest of Latin America, it -- unlike eBay today -- is growing like wildfire.
And how fast does wildfire grow, exactly?
Step with me into that time machine that you didn't believe I owned a few paragraphs ago. Back in 1998, a barely profitable eBay was selling for as much as 102 time its trailing revenues of $86 million -- and was considered a bargain next to unprofitable Yahoo!
eBay, by the way, has grown its revenue base 88 times in size over the past decade. Now, the better math students among you will quickly recognize that 88 does not equal 13, and therefore, eBay's stock price has not grown nearly as fast as its revenues. But the stock price did grow. And seeing as the S&P 500 today is only about 32% higher than it was back in September 1998, eBay's stock price grew a heckuvalot faster than the broader stock market.
Past is prelude
Skeptics will look at MercadoLibre and snort derisively: "A 200 P/E?! Are you insane?!" And perhaps I am. But perhaps again, insanity is just another way of looking at the world. So here's how I look at things:
MercadoLibre has close to the same sales that eBay was booking yester-decade. MercadoLibre boasts similar growth prospects, and a similarly dominant market share. Yet MercadoLibre today sells for just one-quarter the price-to-sales ratio that eBay commanded in 1998. And relatively speaking, that's cheap.
Give MercadoLibre a decade to work its magic, and I am convinced we'll see the eBay of the Southern Hemisphere turn in a similar performance. With the right ingredients in play, it has the potential to gain significant traction abroad.
If you agree that MercadoLibre has the potential to be the best international stock, then head on over to CAPS and vote MercadoLibre an "outperformer."
If international investing is an interest of yours, try a free 30-day trial of our Global Gains newsletter, where we search through compelling companies in emerging markets.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 408 out of more than 83,000 players. eBay and Amazon.com are both Stock Advisor recommendations. Yahoo! is a former Stock Advisor pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.