Though Steve Symington prefers to think in terms of global scale, there one promising Brazilian fintech leader he's watching today.
April 22, 2021
When it comes to international investing, I’ve found myself generally less compelled by region-specific stocks in recent years. Instead, I’m more drawn toward businesses with products that can translate well on a global scale. That’s partly why those stocks I’ve singled out so far as formal 7investing recommendations span several nascent, flexible industries ranging from internet infrastructure to electronics components, insurance technology, enterprise software, robotics, and artificial intelligence.
It’s also why there’s only one purely international, geographically constrained business in my personal portfolio today: China’s Amazon-esque e-commerce giant JD.com (NASDAQ: JD). I publicly laid out a cursory bull thesis for JD in a brief article here last September. To be clear, I still like JD for its ability to capitalize on the mammoth opportunity presented by the rise of e-commerce and a growing middle glass in China.
But there’s another compelling business that’s entered my radar in recent months for similar reasons in another geography: StoneCo (NASDAQ: STNE).
Founded in 2012, StoneCo is a Brazil-based fintech and digital payments specialist that’s managed to grow by leaps and bounds fueled by (and, for some of its offerings, in spite of) the pandemic. The company offers a wide array of products catered to small- and medium-sized Brazilian businesses ranging from banking services to payment processing, e-commerce solutions, and even point-of-sale hardware – all built to effectively empower Brazil’s merchants with omnichannel solutions while facilitating the continued digitization of its economy.
Make no mistake, this is a massive opportunity for StoneCo considering only one quarter of Brazil’s population of roughly 213 million people remains unbanked, 85% of transactions in the country are still performed in cash, and just 8% of all retail sales in Brazil came from e-commerce platforms last year even amid the bricks-and-mortar-crushing grip of COVID-19.
Though down nearly 30% from its February highs amid a broader pullback in high-growth tech stocks, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note StoneCo shares have still nearly tripled over the past year as of this writing – albeit with good reason. StoneCo managed to increase its total payment volume 63% last year while revenue climbed 29%. Net client additions reached a company-record 69,700 last quarter, bringing its total to 652,600 or up 35.7% year over year. StoneCo’s adjusted net income also rose 12% in 2020, and adjusted free cash flow increased by more than half — even as the company exempted some clients from fees due to COVID-19, and as it opted to reinvest heavily to grow the business in these early stages.
In any case, there are many moving parts for StoneCo still to consider — from competitive threats to its pending acquisition of software company Linx, its potential expansion outside of Brazil down the road, and the fact that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns roughly 14.2 million shares worth almost $1.2 billion today – so again this is hardly a comprehensive bull thesis.
But given its recent pullback, I certainly think it’s worth adding a starter position in StoneCo today, or at the very least granting it a spot atop your watchlist of international stocks.
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