Living in Canada, Shopify Inc (US) (NASDAQ:SHOP) is naturally on my radar and while I don’t own SHOP stock, I do think it’s got the potential to be one of Canada’s greatest tech stocks — ever!
Back in May, I called Shopify one of the 10-best growth stocks to buy right now.
Those who took the plunge based on my recommendation haven’t done nearly as well as they could have — SHOP is up 25% from May 5 through Oct. 26 — thanks to Citron Research calling the company’s business model a “get rich quick” scheme earlier this month.
Shopify Trading at a Discount
InvestorPlace contributor Luke Lango on Oct. 6 took the opportunity to encourage investors to buy Shopify stock given it was then trading at a discount after Citron’s scare tactics worked to shake out the weak hands.
His argument seemed to hinge on two key points.
“No one comes close to Shopify’s growth rate,” Lango wrote. “Consequently, no one should come close to SHOP stock’s sales multiple, either.”
He’s right, especially when you’re talking about companies that aren’t yet profitable. In the absence of profits, your next-best yardstick is price-to-sales.
His second point, that Citron’s report is full of misrepresentations, is spot on.
On a weekly basis, I order from Green Zebra Kitchen, a Toronto meal-kit company that provides vegan and vegetarian meal plans for people like myself who want to eat healthily but don’t want to cook after a long day at the computer.
In my May article, I mentioned Tio Gazpacho as an example of a real company using Shopify’s e-commerce platform, but I’d never actually used the company’s product. Well, I use Green Zebra weekly and heartily endorse its service. They’re a real company providing an actual service, not some fly by night, get rich quick scheme.
I’m pretty confident if you order enough stuff online you’re already using Shopify and don’t even know it. For Citron to suggest Shopify’s e-commerce platform is anything but genuine demeans great businesses like Green Zebra Kitchen. Do not take the bait.
Shopify reports its Q3 2017 earnings on Oct. 31 before the markets open. All eyes are on CEO and founder Tobias Lütke, who’ll be not only talking about its business in the quarter but also addressing Citron’s allegations.
InvestorPlace’s Tom Taulli recently suggested that investors exercise caution when it comes to Shopify stock, given it’s proven to be sensitive to bad news. Citron’s Andrew Left values SHOP at $60. That’s a long way from where it’s currently trading above $105.
Shopify’s expected to report a one-cent loss in the third quarter, 12 cents better than a year earlier on $166 million in revenue. If it reports a profit, you can expect Shopify’s stock to jump much higher. If it reports a more-significant loss, I’m not sure it will drop nearly as much.
Left’s could try to discredit Lütke’s defense of Shopify. Only that will put a dent in Shopify’s stock price.
The Safer Shopify Play
Whenever I come across a stock that’s facing some uncertainty, part of my job as a writer is to come up with safer ways for investors to gain exposure to said stock without taking undue risk.
Usually, I look for a backdoor entry.
In the case of Shopify that’s not possible. The most-significant investor unrelated to the business is Fidelity Investments which owns 12.6 million shares, but it’s privately held. From there the institutional ownership gets much smaller so that’s not going to work.
The next easiest way is to invest in an exchange-traded fund that holds SHOP. The SPDR FactSet Innovative Technology ETF (NYSEARCA:XITK) appears to the ETF with the largest weighting at 1.95% of its $8 million in total assets. The downside of doing this is the ETF might not make it to the end of next year, let alone five years from now when Shopify should be making tons of money.
InvestorPlace contributor Joseph Hargett recommended on Oct. 17 that you sell a November $80 put receiving $179 premium income should SHOP’s stock price not drop below $80 by the November expiry.
To get that same income 10 days later you would have to sell a December $85 put which generates $1.55 in premium income. As I write this, $85 is exactly a 20% decline in price. If Shopify drops 21% and below $85, you could be assigned SHOP stock at $85 per share.
It’s not perfect, but at least you get some income while also buying Shopify stock at a bigger discount than today.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.