Among consumer technology firms, Square (NYSE:SQ) is easily one of the top players in the market. Right from its initial public offering, SQ stock made a huge impression on Wall Street. Investors loved its disruptive potential and eagerly drove up the company’s valuation.
Square stock hasn’t disappointed. In its first full year in 2016, shares returned 7% during an extremely choppy season. But things quickly and firmly turned positive last year, with SQ profiting shareholders nearly 151%. In the year-to-date, the payment-processing company has gained a whopping 107%.
But as with other high-flying investments, concerns about SQ stock have started to creep in. Largely, bearish criticisms center on its value relative to key metrics. Notably, SQ stock is valued at 94-times forward earnings and 10-times trailing sales. Contrast that with its closest rival PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL), which trades at 29-times forward earnings and 7-times trailing sales.
Those sitting on the fence now have more incentive to listen to the naysayers. Square stock wasn’t immune to the October selloff. In fact, it was one of last month’s biggest victims, with SQ shares dropping 27%. As a result, the company’s second-half performance of this year is far less impressive at 19% up.
Naturally, you’ll find no shortage of analysts taking SQ stock down a notch. While the present market conditions do it no favors, I think it’s premature to give into the pressure.
SQ Stock Is a Disruptive Investment
Last week, Square posted its earnings results for the third quarter. Like most of its quarterly reports, the tech firm delivered the goods.
Against an earnings-per-share consensus target of 11 cents, SQ brought home 13 cents. This contrasted sharply with the year-ago quarter in which the company recorded a $16 million loss.
For the revenue picture, the Street forecasted $413.9 million. Instead, management posted sales of $431 million, or a 4% positive surprise. The figure exceeded Q3 2017’s tally by a huge margin of 68%.
Still, Square stock tumbled following management’s disappointing guidance for Q4. Analysts had previously expected a profit of 15 cents. Instead, the organization is aiming for 12 cents to 13 cents. Admittedly, it wasn’t the greatest announcement, but it’s not the end of the world as the markets made it out to be.
For one thing, SQ stock is a growth play. I’m not suggesting that earnings don’t matter because they do. However, it’s not quite accurate to penalize Square based on an apples-to-oranges assessment. The earnings performance isn’t quite up to snuff because that’s not the company’s main priority.
Right now, it’s all about disruption and the last earnings report affirmed this sentiment. In Q3, gross payment volume hit $22.5 billion, jumping over 29% from the year-ago level. That tells me that the Square platform continues to steal significant market share from traditional payment processors.
Ultimately, this is a much more relevant indicator for SQ stock than a narrow focus on earnings ratios.
SQ Constantly Pushes Boundaries
Another reason prospective buyers shouldn’t overly concern themselves with valuation issues is Square’s leadership team. Of course, everybody knows CEO Jack Dorsey’s tolerance for stress as he also heads Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). But more importantly, the man knows what he’s doing.
Last year, Square implemented bitcoin payments into its Cash App. While bitcoin’s market value fluctuated and eventually collapsed from its highs, the Cash App became a huge success. Moreover, rival platform Venmo has yet to adopt cryptocurrencies, which has only hurt parent company PayPal.
Cash App downloads have beaten Venmo downloads on Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google Playstore and Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store combined. So far, Cash App has 34 million downloads to Venmo’s 33 million. Credit belongs to Square’s executive leadership, which saw bitcoin as more than just a passing fad.
Recently, the Street’s attention has turned toward Eventbrite (NYSE:EB); specifically, Square’s $25 million investment into the event-management and ticketing website that more than doubled earlier this month. It’s not necessarily the money that intrigued people, but rather, SQ’s insistence on expanding beyond its comfort zone.
Just as importantly, management has a knack for finding what works and avoiding what doesn’t. These attributes won’t make SQ stock attractive on paper, but you’d be crazy to dismiss them.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto is long bitcoin.