Shares of Latin America’s largest e-commerce marketplace MercadoLibre Inc. climbed above $1,000 for the first time as online sales surge in the region amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Up 78% this year, MercadoLibre has benefited from a growing number of consumers that are either buying online for the first time or increasing the frequency of their purchases because of virus-related lockdowns. The company said gross merchandise volume growth accelerated to 73% in April and UBS Group AG pointed to even stronger figures for the industry in May, citing data from Nielsen’s e-commerce researcher Ebit.
“Recent sector data makes us more confident that Brazilian e-commerce growth could deliver on high expectations,” UBS Group analysts led by Gustavo Piras Oliveira wrote in a report dated June 3, reaffirming MercadoLibre as their top pick in the sector and raising the stock’s price target to $1,040.
The Buenos Aires-based company, which counts Brazil as its largest market and has been focusing on consumer packaged goods, saw its market value jump to a record $50 billion, compared to $39 billion for EBay Inc. The stock gained as much as 4.8% to $1,036 in New York.
Even as some countries start to ease their social-distancing measures, Bank of America Corp. believes the tailwinds will last for longer. “While some expect a channel reversion to physical retail as malls and stores re-open, we think behaviors are likely to prove sticky,” BofA analysts led by Robert Ford wrote in a report dated June 9, raising MercadoLibre’s target price to $1,100.
The company’s payments and wallet platform MercadoPago is also attracting bullish views, as lockdowns across the region push users to make payments online. Morgan Stanley expects total payment volume off-marketplace to grow 70% in 2020 and 69% in 2021.